B5: Functions of cytoskeletal filaments in mammalian oocyte division

Lead PI: Melina Schuh;
Collaborating PIs: Timo Betz, Andreas Janshoff, Sarah Köster, Peter Lénárt
Overarching research question: How do cytoskeletal structures drive the highly asymmetric
meiotic divisions of human oocytes?

We investigates how oocytes develop in mammals, and how errors arise in this process, which are a major cause of miscarriages and infertility. Mammalian oocytes progress through two meiotic divisions. In both these divisions, the oocyte eliminates surplus chromosomes into small cells, called polar bodies. Polar body extrusion is the most asymmetric division in a human body. The asymmetric divisions allows the oocyte to preserve the bulk of its stored materials for early embryo development and are hence of crucial importance for the development of a new life. How human oocytes divide asymmetrically is unknown. This project hence aims to understand how cytoskeletal structures drive the asymmetric division of human oocytes. The experiments are carried out in human oocytes and pig oocytes, as these divide in a similar way. The project involves a broad range of techniques, including super-resolution live microscopy, laser microdissection, optical tweezers and loss-of-function techniques such as Trim-Away.

Core field: cell biology
PhD training objectives: molecular biology techniques (cloning, mRNA synthesis);
microinjection of oocytes; oocyte culture; microscopy methods (light sheet microscopy, confocal live microscopy, STED, AiryScan microscopy, expansion microscopy); biophysical methods (optical tweezers; laser microdissection).