Heterogeneity of the zona pellucida carbohydrate distribution in human oocytes failing to fertilize in vitro
The mammalian zona pellucida contains several glycoproteins whose oligosaccharide moieties are known to play a key role in the interaction with spermatozoa. Since zona pellucida defects may represent one of the most likely causes of failed fertilization in human in-vitro reproduction, we have studied the carbohydrate composition and distribution over the human zona pellucida by means of lectins. Donated, not inseminated cumulus-oocyte complexes, from cohorts with high fertilization rates, and
... zation rates, and fertilization-failed oocytes from cohorts inseminated with proven fertile donor semen, were analysed using 11 fluorescein-labelled lectins, on deplasticized semi-thin epoxy sections. Results showed that wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), Maclura pomifera (MPA) and Pisum sativum (PSA) bound to the extracellular matrix bordering the zona pellucida-corona radiata interface of cumulus-oocytes complexes, while the zona pellucida was labelled by WGA, Concanavalin A (ConA) and PSA. WGA labelling and correlative electron microscopy on the cumulus-oocyte complexes demonstrated that this lectin is a useful tool to trace the cortical granule distribution in the human oocyte. Surprisingly, in the failed-fertilized oocytes the zona pellucida was also labelled by MPA and showed three different patterns: (i) labelling of the zona pellucida outer surface; (ii) uniform labelling; (iii) labelling of an outer zona pellucida layer with variable thickness. Comparative analysis of WGA and MPA labelling on single failed-fertilized oocytes demonstrated that MPA zona pellucida patterns are not related to the cortical reaction. The nature and meaning of the MPA pattern of failedfertilized oocytes were discussed in the light of zona pellucida defects impairing sperm receptivity.