Book chapters will be unavailable on Saturday 24th August between 8am-12pm BST. This is for essential maintenance which will provide improved performance going forwards. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused.
The present study was designed to examine the effects of overheating on meiotic spindle morphology within in vitro matured human oocytes using a polarized light microscope (Polscope). Immature human oocytes at either germinal vesicle or metaphase I stage were cultured in vitro for 24–36 h until they reached metaphase II (M-II) stage. After maturation, oocytes at M-II stage were imaged in the living state with the Polscope at 37, 38, 39 and 40 °C for up to 20 min. After heating, oocytes were returned to 37 °C and then imaged for another 20 min at 37 °C. The microtubules in the spindles were quantified by their maximum retardance, which represents the amount of microtubules. Spindles were intact at 37 °C during 40 min of examination and their maximum retardance (1.72–1.79) did not change significantly during imaging. More microtubules were formed in the spindles heated to 38 °C and the maximum retardance was increased from 1.77 before heating to 1.95 at 20 min after heating. By contrast, spindles started to disassemble when the temperature was increased to 39 °C for 10 min (maximum retardance was reduced from 1.76 to 1.65) or 40 °C for 1 min (maximum retardance was reduced from 1.75 to 1.5). At the end of heating (20 min), fewer microtubules were present in the spindles and the maximum retardance was reduced to 0.8 and 0.78 in the oocytes heated to 39 °C and 40 °C, respectively. Heating to 40 °C also induced spindles to relocate in the cytoplasm in some oocytes. After the temperature was returned to 37 °C, microtubules were repolymerized to form spindles, but the spindles were not reconstituted completely compared with the spindles imaged before heating. These results indicate that spindles in human eggs are sensitive to high temperature. Moreover, maintenance of an in vitro manipulation temperature of 37 °C is crucial for normal spindle morphology.