Böke Lab

Böke LabBöke Lab

Cell and Developmental Biology

Böke Lab
Oocyte Biology & Cellular Dormancy
Group leader

Böke Lab

Oocyte Biology & Cellular Dormancy
Group leader

2008-2012           Graduate Student at Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute (CRUK-MI), Manchester, UK.
2013-2016           Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Systems Biology,  Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA. 
2017-                   Group Leader in the Cell & Developmental Biology programme at the Centre for Genomic Regulation, Barcelona, Spain.

Group News

CRG and Eugin sign a collaboration agreement on molecular research applied to assisted reproduction (14/03/2018)
The project entails creation of four working groups (Vernos, Boke, Payer, Gabaldón) that will focus their research on gaining insights into the aging of ovules, their sensitivity to the passage of time, and studying whether changes in vaginal microbiota have an impact on assisted reproduction

The Böke lab awarded an ERC Starting Grant 2017 to study the mechanisms dormant oocytes employ to remain viable. Congrats! (06/09/2017)

Job Openings

If you are enthusiatic to understand the fundamental questions about how nature works, join us! Write an email to Elvan to discuss possibilities. 

Summary

Our lab focuses on one of the biggest problems developed nations are facing in 21st century: Late-stage motherhood, and associated fertility problems. The decrease in fertility rates is leading to a population decline in majority of the developed nations from Japan to Spain, which will have unprecedented consequences for our societies in near future.

Poor oocyte quality accounts for the majority of female fertility problems, however, we know little about how oocytes can remain healthy for many years or why they eventually decline with age.  World-wide data show that more than 25% of female fertility problems are unexplained, pointing to a huge gap in our understanding of female reproduction. Our lab strives to help fill this gap by studying immature oocytes.

We’re interested in three main lines of research:

1 - How do oocytes maintain proteostasis?

A remarkable feature of reproduction is that the offspring does not inherit the ageing status of their parents. In mammals, the embryo inherits the cytoplasm from the mother, in the form of the oocyte cytoplasm. This suggests the existence of mechanisms to counteract the accumulation of intracellular damage in the oocytes. We are studying these mechanisms to reveal how oocytes establish and maintain proteostasis. 

2 -  What is the metabolic state of mitochondria in oocytes?

Mitochondria in oocytes are the sole source of mitochondria for the new embryo, and thus, their quality is extremely important for proper development. We are working with human and frog  (Xenopus leavis) oocytes to understand the metabolic nature of mitochondria in oocytes.  
The majority of mitochondria in human and frog early oocytes lie in the Balbiani body, which can be thought of as a “superorganelle” that clusters other organelles. The Balbiani body is stable only in the dormant oocytes, and disperses upon oocyte activation. Our previous research has shown that the Balbiani body forms an amyloid-like cage around organelles that could be protective. We investigate the function of the Balbiani body, as well as features of mitochondria inside and outside of this superorganelle. 

 

Balbiani bodies, labeled “BB” in these images of an immature frog egg (left) and immature human egg (right, larger scale), hold organelles together in one spot next to the nucleus, “n,” in the months or years before an egg matures. Images: Elvan Boke (left), Arthur Hertig (right)

3-  Are primordial oocytes susceptible to aging?

Oocyte quality declines with increasing maternal age, but we do not know whether age-related defects are already present in primordial oocytes or are acquired during oocyte maturation. Indeed, it is unknown to which extent oocyte aging is caused by cell-intrinsic mechanisms or by the aging microenvironment (cell-extrinsic). Answers to these questions might allow us to develop therapeutic strategies that delay or even prevent oocyte decline with age.

We use oocytes from two vertebrate species, frogs and mice, which are complementary for their ease of handling and relationship to human physiology. We also collaborate with Hospital Clinic Barcelona and Clinica Eugin to obtain human immature oocytes.