We have studied the chromosome condensation activity of mouse oocytes that have been inseminated during meiotic maturation. These oocytes remain unactivated, and in those penetrated by up to three or four sperm, each sperm nucleus is transformed, without prior development of a pronucleus, into metaphase chromosomes. However, those penetrated by more than four sperm never transform any of the nuclei into metaphase chromosomes (Clarke, H. J., and Y. Masui, 1986, J. Cell Biol. 102:1039-1046). We report here that, when the cytoplasmic volume of oocytes was doubled or tripled by cell fusion, up to five or eight sperm nuclei, respectively, could be transformed into metaphase chromosomes. Conversely, when the cytoplasmic volume was reduced by bisection of oocytes after the germinal vesicle (GV) had broken down, no more than two sperm could be transformed into metaphase chromosomes. Thus, the capacity of the oocyte cytoplasm to transform sperm nuclei to metaphase chromosomes was proportional to its volume. The contribution of the nucleoplasm of the GV and the cytoplasm outside the GV to the chromosome condensation activity was investigated by bisecting oocytes that contained a GV and then inseminating the nucleate and anucleate fragments. The anucleate fragments never induced sperm chromosome formation, indicating that GV nucleoplasm is required for this activity. In the nucleate fragments, the capacity to induce sperm chromosome formation was reduced as compared with whole oocytes, in spite of the fact that the fragments contained the entire GV nucleoplasm. This implies that non-GV cytoplasmic material also was required for chromosome condensation activity. When inseminated oocytes were incubated in the presence of puromycin, the sperm nuclei were transformed into interphase-like nuclei, but no metaphase chromosomes developed. However, when protein synthesis resumed, the interphase nuclei were transformed to metaphase chromosomes. These results suggest that the transformation of sperm nuclei to metaphase chromosomes in the cytoplasm of mouse oocytes requires both the nucleoplasm of the GV and non-GV cytoplasmic substances, including proteins synthesized during maturation.

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