Oocytes spend the majority of their lifetime in a primordial state. The cellular and molecular biology of primordial oocytes is largely unexplored; yet, it is necessary to study them to understand the mechanisms through which oocytes maintain cellular fitness for decades, and why they eventually fail with age. Here, we develop enabling methods for live-imaging-based comparative characterization of Xenopus, mouse and human primordial oocytes. We show that primordial oocytes in all three vertebrate species contain active mitochondria, Golgi and lysosomes. We further demonstrate that human and Xenopus oocytes have a Balbiani body characterized by a dense accumulation of mitochondria in their cytoplasm. However, despite previous reports, we did not find a Balbiani body in mouse oocytes. Instead, we demonstrate that what was previously used as a marker for the Balbiani body in mouse primordial oocytes is in fact a ring-shaped Golgi that is not functionally associated with oocyte dormancy. This study provides the first insights into the organization of the cytoplasm in mammalian primordial oocytes, and clarifies the relative advantages and limitations of choosing different model organisms for studying oocyte dormancy.

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