The reduction of the number of fertilized oocytes and transferred embryos represents the main target of assisted reproductive medicine. During the last years, several studies have confirmed the significant relationship between the production of soluble HLA-G molecules (sHLA-G) by 48-72 hours early embryos and an increased implantation rate in IVF protocols. As consequence, the detection of HLA-G modulation was suggested as a marker to identify the best embryos to be transferred. On the opposite, no suitable markers are available for the oocyte selection. The major finding of the present paper is that the release of ICAM-1 might be predictive of oocyte maturation. The results obtained are confirmed using three independent methodologies, such as ELISA, Bio-Plex assay and Western blotting. The sICAM-1 release is very high in immature oocytes, decrease in mature oocytes and become even lower in in vitro fertilized embryos. No significant differences were observed in the levels of sICAM-1 release between immature oocytes with different morphological characteristics. On the contrary, when the mature oocytes were subdivided accordingly to morphological criteria, the mean sICAM-I levels in grade 1 oocytes were significantly decreased when compared to grade 2 and 3 oocytes. Therefore, we propose sICAM-1 as a biochemical marker for oocyte maturation and grading, with a possible interesting rebound in assisted reproduction techniques.
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