Outer and inner follicle cell-enclosed oocytes (oocyte complexes) of Halocynthia roretzi underwent germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD) within 2 hr when transferred from ovaries to normal seawater of pH 8 (NSW). Extrusion of test cells (TC) into the perivitelline space and elevation of the chorion also occurred. This phenomenon was designated as spontaneous oocyte maturation.
Seawater of low pH, protease inhibitors such as leupeptin or soybean trypsin inhibitor (SBTI), and calcium deficiency inhibited the spontaneous maturation only when introduced to the NSW during the first 10 minutes of incubation. GVBD-blocked complexes underwent GVBD after addition of trypsin regardless of pH or the absence of calcium ions. The oocytes from which follicle cells were removed with glycosidase did not undergo GVBD in NSW, but addition of trypsin triggered GVBD in these defolliculated oocytes (TC oocytes). Furthermore, incubation media in which spontaneous maturation had occurred, induced GVBD in the TC oocytes. This GVBD-inducing activity was heat-labile and was inhibited by leupeptin.
These results indicate that in the first step of the spontaneous oocyte maturation, outer and/or inner follicle cells give a signal to the oocyte itself or TC oocyte. This signal is likely to be trypsin-like.