The most immature oocytes remain dormant in primordial follicles in the ovary, ensuring the longevity of female reproductive life. Despite its biological and clinical importance, knowledge of mechanisms regulating the dormant state remains limited. Here, we show that mechanical stress plays a key role in maintaining the dormant state of the oocytes in primordial follicles in mice. Transcriptional and histological analyses revealed that oocytes were compressed by surrounding granulosa cells with extracellular matrix. This environmental state is functionally crucial, as oocytes became activated upon loosening the structure and the dormancy was restored by additional compression with exogenous pressure. The nuclei of oocytes in primordial follicles rotated in response to the mechanical stress. Pausing the rotation triggered activation of oocytes through nuclear export of forkhead box O3 (FOXO3). These results provide insights into the mechanisms by which oocytes are kept dormant to sustain female reproductive life.
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