The ability to preserve spermatozoa and eggs for a long period of time is critical for retaining fertility, addressing infertility and lengthening the reproductive life span of individuals. Although spermatozoa survive freezing with relative ease, egg (oocyte) preservation is more complex because of the cell's large size, significant water content and fragile cellular skeleton. Current methods to preserve the oocyte are far from optimal, so there is a need to explore novel approaches. This proposal examines what happens when the immature oocyte nucleus, also known as the germinal vesicle, is isolated and dried alone as a potential means of genome preservation. Specifically, we will determine if a desiccated germinal vesicle (from any oocyte collected within the ovary) can be rehydrated and then placed into a fresh (previously enucleated) donor oocyte to reanimate and recover the original maternal genome. The 'reconstructed'oocyte then could be cultured and fertilized in vitro with appropriate spermatozoa to produce a viable embryo of a desired genotype. The general hypothesis is that desiccation and storage at room temperature can preserve the structural and functional integrity of the germinal vesicle. The germinal vesicle will be studied in the domestic cat because (1) this species is an important model for human health and reproduction, and (2) our preliminary data are extensive and highly promising. An important element of the proposed project is compacting the germinal vesicle to a small diameter before drying, which will ensure optimal protection during desiccation or storage while permitting easy transfer by injection into a surrogate oocyte. Our objective is to examine, for the first time, the impact of compaction, desiccation and storage at room temperature on the germinal vesicle, including its ability to reconstitute an oocyte that can undergo meiosis, fertilization and embryo development to term (i.e., production of healthy young). Early data have revealed that (1) in vitro compaction is an excellent protector of the germinal vesicle against stressors, (2) germinal vesicle transfer into a recipient oocyte is successful and (3) desiccation in the presence of sugar safeguards nuclear content. The project challenges existing paradigms about how to preserve female fertility in an area (germinal vesicle preservation and storage) that has never been explored, but shows strong promise. This innovative strategy could circumvent the complications associated with conventional inefficient, damaging and costly freeze-storage of whole oocytes in liquid nitrogen. The required studies also will substantially increase scholarly knowledge about complex interactions between the oocyte's nucleus and cytoplasm, including the mechanisms regulating developmental competence of the germinal vesicle.

Public Health Relevance

(provided by the applicant): As will be described, the drying, storage and reanimation of the oocyte's germinal vesicle represent an enormous potential for preserving human fertility. This approach also could have widespread, practical application to more effective, economical preservation, propagation and management of rare animal models used to study human diseases. The ability to efficiently perpetuate these unique genotypes allows understanding mechanisms to improve human health through translational biomedical research.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRR1-CM-4 (01))
Program Officer
Moro, Manuel H
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Smithsonian Institution
United States
Zip Code
Lee, P-C; Wildt, D E; Comizzoli, P (2018) Proteomic analysis of germinal vesicles in the domestic cat model reveals candidate nuclear proteins involved in oocyte competence acquisition. Mol Hum Reprod 24:14-26
Songsasen, N; Thongkittidilok, C; Yamamizu, K et al. (2017) Short-term hypertonic exposure enhances in vitro follicle growth and meiotic competence of enclosed oocytes while modestly affecting mRNA expression of aquaporin and steroidogenic genes in the domestic cat model. Theriogenology 90:228-236
Phillips, Tameka C; Wildt, David E; Comizzoli, Pierre (2016) Incidence of methylated histones H3K4 and H3K79 in cat germinal vesicles is regulated by specific nuclear factors at the acquisition of developmental competence during the folliculogenesis. J Assist Reprod Genet 33:783-94
Lee, Pei-Chih; Wildt, David E; Comizzoli, Pierre (2015) Nucleolar Translocation of Histone Deacetylase 2 Is Involved in Regulation of Transcriptional Silencing in the Cat Germinal Vesicle. Biol Reprod 93:33
Comizzoli, Pierre (2015) Biobanking efforts and new advances in male fertility preservation for rare and endangered species. Asian J Androl 17:640-5
Elliott, Gloria D; Lee, Pei-Chih; Paramore, Elisha et al. (2015) Resilience of oocyte germinal vesicles to microwave-assisted drying in the domestic cat model. Biopreserv Biobank 13:164-71
Comizzoli, Pierre; Wildt, David E (2013) Mammalian fertility preservation through cryobiology: value of classical comparative studies and the need for new preservation options. Reprod Fertil Dev 26:91-8
Graves-Herring, Jennifer E; Wildt, David E; Comizzoli, Pierre (2013) Retention of structure and function of the cat germinal vesicle after air-drying and storage at suprazero temperature. Biol Reprod 88:139
Holt, William V (2013) Who needs cytoplasm? Genomic preservation for the 21st century. Biol Reprod 88:140
Fujihara, M; Comizzoli, P; Wildt, D E et al. (2012) Cat and dog primordial follicles enclosed in ovarian cortex sustain viability after in vitro culture on agarose gel in a protein-free medium. Reprod Domest Anim 47 Suppl 6:102-8

Showing the most recent 10 out of 16 publications