Cheng S, Altmeppen G, So C, Welp LM, Penir S, Ruhwedel T, Menelaou K, Harasimov K, Stützer A, Blayney M, Elder K, Möbius W, Urlaub H, Schuh M
Full-grown oocytes are transcriptionally silent and must stably maintain the messenger RNAs (mRNAs) needed for oocyte meiotic maturation and early embryonic development. However, where and how mammalian oocytes store maternal mRNAs is unclear. Here, we report that mammalian oocytes accumulate mRNAs in a mitochondria-associated ribonucleoprotein domain (MARDO). MARDO assembly around mitochondria was promoted by the RNA-binding protein ZAR1 and directed by an increase in mitochondrial membrane potential during oocyte growth. MARDO foci coalesced into hydrogel-like matrices that clustered mitochondria. Maternal mRNAs stored in the MARDO were translationally repressed. Loss of ZAR1 disrupted the MARDO, dispersed mitochondria, and caused a premature loss of MARDO-localized mRNAs. Thus, a mitochondria-associated membraneless compartment controls mitochondrial distribution and regulates maternal mRNA storage, translation, and decay to ensure fertility in mammals.