Scientific reports

ECAT1 is essential for human oocyte maturation and pre-implantation development of the resulting embryos.

PMID 27917907


ECAT1 is a subunit of the subcortical maternal complex that is required for cell cycle progression during pre-implantation embryonic development; however, its exact function remains to be elucidated. Here we investigated the expression of ECAT1 in human ovarian tissue, oocytes and pre-implantation embryos and assessed its function by using RNA interference (RNAi) in oocytes. ECAT1 mRNA was highly expressed in human oocytes and zygotes, as well as in two-cell, four-cell and eight-cell embryos, but declined significantly in morulae and blastocysts. ECAT1 was expressed in the cytoplasm of oocytes and pre-implantation embryos and was localized more specifically in the cortical region than in the inner cytoplasm. RNAi experiments demonstrated that down-regulation of ECAT1 expression not only impaired spindle assembly and reduced maturation and fertilization rates of human oocytes but also decreased the cleavage rate of the resulting zygotes. In conclusion, our study indicates that ECAT1 may play a role in meiotic progression by maintaining the accuracy of spindle assembly in human oocytes, thus promoting oocyte maturation and subsequent development of the embryo.