The requisite endpoint of mammalian oocyte maturation, whether in vivo or in vitro, is a metaphase II oocyte which is able to be fertilized and which can eventually support normal embryonic development. Oocytes which have been matured in vivo basically fulfill these criteria. On the other hand, a completely different situation exists when these cells are isolated from the ovaries and cultured in vitro. If they are too small (growing oocytes), they do not undergo maturation, or, if more advanced, will mature only to the metaphase I stage. Even in fully grown oocytes which are able to mature to metaphase II, the developmental potential after fertilization is disappointingly low, for reasons which remain unknown. The complexity of certain factors (nuclear, cytoplasmic or arising from our current culture systems) undoubtedly influences both the ability of oocytes to mature fully, as well as their developmental potential after fertilization.
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