Mitochondrial dysfunction in cumulus cells is related to decreased reproductive capacity in advanced-age women

We reveal the mechanisms underlying the aging-related decline in ovarian function and reproductive capacity and the mitochondrial function and energy metabolism in cumulus cells.

VOLUME 118, ISSUE 2, P393-404


Xinmei Lu, M.A., Yubing Liu, Ph.D., Jun Xu, M.A., Xiang Cao, B.A., Doudou Zhang, B.A., Miao Liu, Ph.D., Suying Liu, Ph.D., Xi Dong, M.A., Huijuan Shi, Ph.D. 



To reveal the relationship between mitochondrial function in cumulus cells (CCs) and the aging-related decline in ovarian function and reproductive capacity.


Retrospective and transcriptome analysis of human tissue.


University hospital.


A total of 186 infertile women with normal weight and no other diseases, including 86 young women (aged <38 years) with normal ovarian reserve and 100 advanced-age women (aged ≥38 years) with diminished ovarian reserve.



Main Outcome Measure(s)

Embryo development data were analyzed. The mitochondrial ultrastructure of CCs was observed by transmission electron microscopy. Mitochondrial activity was detected by immunofluorescence. The per-CC mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid copy numbers and cellular adenosine triphosphate levels were quantified. Unbiased comprehensive genome-wide transcriptomics was performed. The functions of all annotated genes and biologic pathways were analyzed by the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes.


Advanced-age women with diminished ovarian function had significantly fewer retrieved oocytes and lower embryo quality. The normal mitochondrial rate in CCs was significantly lower. In addition to mitochondrial morphology and structural changes, the fluorescence intensity of Fluo-3/AM was significantly higher, and that of MitoTracker was lower than that of young women with normal ovarian reserve, suggesting that age negatively affects the mitochondrial activity of CCs. The per-CC mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid copy number and adenosine triphosphate levels significantly decreased in the advanced-age group. The Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes analysis showed that differentially expressed genes were significantly enriched in the oxidative phosphorylation pathway. Additionally, most mitochondrially encoded genes related to oxidative phosphorylation were significantly down-regulated in the advanced-age group.


We present current evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction in CCs may play a key role in the age-related decline in ovarian function and reproductive capacity.

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