Structural changes in the endoplasmic reticulum of starfish oocytes during meiotic maturation and fertilization. Academic Article uri icon


  • The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of live starfish oocytes was observed during meiotic maturation and fertilization. The ER was visualized by injection into the cytoplasm of an oil drop saturated with the fluorescent lipophilic dye DiI; DiI spread throughout the oocyte endoplasmic reticulum and the pattern was imaged by confocal microscopy. The ER in the immature (germinal vesicle stage) oocyte was composed of interconnected membrane sheets. In response to 1-methyladenine, the sheets of ER appeared to become associated with the yolk platelets, forming spherical shells. A few of these spherical shells could sometimes be seen in immature oocytes, but their number was much greater in the egg at the first meiotic spindle stage. At about the time that the first polar body formed, the spherical shells disappeared, and the ER returned to a form like that of the immature oocyte. The spherical shells did not reappear during the second meiotic cycle. During maturation, the ER also began to move; the movement was apparent by the time of germinal vesicle breakdown and continued throughout both meiotic cycles and in eggs with second polar bodies. When eggs at the first meiotic spindle stage were fertilized, the form of the ER changed. Within 1 min after sperm addition to the observation chamber, the circular cross sections of the spherical shells of the unfertilized egg ER were no longer distinct. At this point, the form of the ER could not be discerned with the resolution of the light microscope; however, the rate of spreading of DiI from an injected oil drop decreased, providing strong evidence that the ER had become fragmented. The ER remained in this form for several minutes and then gradually, the appearance of the ER and the rate of DiI spreading returned to be like those of the unfertilized egg. Injection of inositol trisphosphate caused a similar change in the ER structure. These results indicate that the ER is a dynamic structure, the form of which changes during oocyte maturation and fertilization.

publication date

  • August 1994