The serpin peptidase inhibitor, clade E, member 2 (SERPINE2) inhibits urokinase-type plasminogen activator (PLAU) and tissue-type plasminogen activator. Higher SERPINE2 expression levels were detected in cumulus cells of human immature oocytes than in those of mature oocytes. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether high SERPINE2 levels in cumulus cells are associated with oocyte immaturity. Using the mouse cumulus–oocyte complex as an experimental model, the effects of elimination and overexpression of SERPINE2 in cumulus cells on cumulus expansion and oocyte maturation were assayed by in vitro maturation. Serpine2 and PLAU transcripts were the most highly expressed serpins and plasminogen activators, respectively. Their expression was coordinately regulated in cumulus cells during gonadotropin-induced oocyte maturation. Silencing of Serpine2 expression using small interfering RNAs or blockage of SERPINE2 protein using a specific antibody had no effect on oocyte maturation. However, overexpression of Serpine2 or exogenous supplementation with high levels of SERPINE2 impaired cumulus expansion and oocyte maturation, probably by decreasing hyaluronan synthase 2 (Has2) and versican (Vcan) mRNA expression. Amiloride, a specific PLAU inhibitor, also suppressed these processes. PLAU supplementation of the oocyte in vitro maturation medium caused earlier and more extensive expansion of cumulus cells and oocyte maturation that may be mediated by increased Has2 mRNA expression. However, these effects were neutralized by coincubation with SERPINE2 or amiloride and PLAU. In conclusion, SERPINE2 and PLAU are involved in cumulus expansion and oocyte maturation. High SERPINE2 levels impair these processes, probably by decreasing cumulus matrix gene expression as well as reducing cumulus hyaluronan contents and inhibiting PLAU activity. These findings may explain why cumulus cells surrounding immature human oocytes express high SERPINE2 levels.
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