This paper reports on the fine structure of rat oocytes at stages before ovulation, during maturation, fertilization, and early cleavage. The study includes parallel observations on light and electron microscope preparations with attempted correlations.
The follicular cells of the ovarian egg are described as sending long processes through the zona pellucida to the egg surface where they mingle with thin projections from the egg itself. No open communication between follicle cell cytoplasm and egg cytoplasm was observed. During maturation and fertilization both types of processes are withdrawn from the zona.
The germinal vesicle and later the pronuclei of the fertilized egg are characterized by numerous large nucleoli. These have the form of thick walled vesicles with diameters as great as 8 to 10 µ. The wall is dense in the EM image and appears to consist in part of small granules.
The cytoplasm shows several inclusions including mitochondria of usual form and a Golgi component which has the typical fine structure and the distribution described by earlier light studies. Small dense particles, presumably RNP particles, are distributed throughout the cytoplasmic matrix and show no preference for membranes. The endoplasmic reticulum of the oocyte is represented by a scattering only of vesicles, but begins a more extensive and elaborate development with the onset of segmentation.
One inclusion of the ooplasm, similar in size to mitochondria, receives special attention. It is a vesicular structure, containing a large number of small vesicles (10 to 50 mµ in diameter) and frequently a central density or nucleoid. They are referred to as multivesicular bodies. Such bodies are found in small number in the ovarian egg, but increase greatly in number during maturation and fertilization. It appears from the micrographs of eggs in these latter stages that these vesicular bodies break down and liberate their content of small vesicles to the surrounding ooplasm.
Comments are provided on the apparent significance of the various observations.