Cumulus expansion is impaired with advanced reproductive age due to loss of matrix integrity and reduced hyaluronan

Elnur Babayev, Chanakarn Suebthawinkul, Dilan Gokyer, Wendena S. Parkes, Felipe Rivas, Mary Ellen Pavone, Adam R. Hall, Michele T. Pritchard*, Francesca E. Duncan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Reproductive aging is associated with ovulatory defects. Age-related ovarian fibrosis partially contributes to this phenotype as short-term treatment with anti-fibrotic compounds improves ovulation in reproductively old mice. However, age-dependent changes that are intrinsic to the follicle may also be relevant. In this study, we used a mouse model to demonstrate that reproductive aging is associated with impaired cumulus expansion which is accompanied by altered morphokinetic behavior of cumulus cells as assessed by time-lapse microscopy. The extracellular matrix integrity of expanded cumulus–oocyte complexes is compromised with advanced age as evidenced by increased penetration of fluorescent nanoparticles in a particle exclusion assay and larger open spaces on scanning electron microscopy. Reduced hyaluronan (HA) levels, decreased expression of genes encoding HA-associated proteins (e.g., Ptx3 and Tnfaip6), and increased expression of inflammatory genes and matrix metalloproteinases underlie this loss of matrix integrity. Importantly, HA levels are decreased with age in follicular fluid of women, indicative of conserved reproductive aging mechanisms. These findings provide novel mechanistic insights into how defects in cumulus expansion contribute to age-related infertility and may serve as a target to extend reproductive longevity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14004
JournalAging Cell
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • ART
  • IVF
  • aging
  • cumulus expansion
  • hyaluronic acid
  • ovary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


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