Zinc plays an important role in oocyte maturation reports a study published online this week in Nature Chemical Biology. Though these are early stage results, understanding zinc's role in oocyte maturation could lead to advances in fertility treatment in future studies.
Zinc, copper, and iron are essential components of most cells and there is mounting evidence that cells maintain total concentrations of these metals within a conserved range. However, it has been difficult to determine the concentration and roles of essential metals for rare cells including mammalian oocytes.
Teresa Woodruff, Thomas O'Halloran, and colleagues found that in mouse oocytes the zinc acquired during meiotic maturation ― the process by which fertile eggs are formed ― is crucial for the late stages of oocyte formation. The study also found that the oocyte's total zinc content is an order of magnitude larger than its iron or copper content, and it rises even higher at a specific stage of meiotic maturation before decreasing again.