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The presence of glutamine (Gln) in in vitro maturation (IVM) and in vitro culture (IVC) medium is a more potent factor for improving porcine oocyte and embryo development than other amino acids. However Gln is inherently unstable and spontaneously breaks down into ammonia, and therefore interferes with proper development. To avoid this adverse effect, Gln was replaced in the present study with its stable dipeptide derivative alanyl-glutamine (Ala-Gln) and the effects of this replacement on porcine IVM and IVC were evaluated. Replacement of Gln with Ala-Gln during IVM did not improve nuclear maturation, however numbers of early cleaved embryos were significantly increased after activation. Blastocyst formation rates were also significantly improved by using Ala-Gln during IVM. Replacement of Gln with Ala-Gln during IVC significantly increased total cell numbers in blastocysts. Blastocyst formation rate was also significantly higher when Ala-Gln was used in both IVM and IVC. In conclusion, the use of Ala-Gln rather than Gln gives better results for development in both porcine IVM and IVC.
The oocyte is known from recent studies in the mouse, cow, sheep and human to be a central regulator of follicular cell function. However, in the pig, little information is known about the regulation of cumulus expansion by oocyte-secreted factors and oocyte quality. We investigated the possible effects of oocyte-secreted factors during in vitro maturation on cumulus expansion and on porcine oocytes as judged by subsequent embryonic development after parthenogenetic activation. Cumulus–oocyte complexes (COC) from antral follicles of pig ovaries collected from a local abattoir were divided into control and treatment groups and were cultured in tissue culture medium 199 supplemented with follicle-stimulating hormone. Treatment groups consisted of increasing numbers of denuded oocytes (DO) co-cultured with COC (at ratios of COC to DO of 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4 and 1:5). After incubation for 44 h, cumulus expansion and maturation rates were assessed and oocytes were activated parthenogenetically. Cumulus expansion in the 1 COC:4 DO and 1 COC:5 DO groups was low and altered because full dispersion of the outer layer did not occur. Cell viability was not affected, as measured by the automated cell counter, but scanning electron microscopy revealed only a scanty extracellular matrix. Blastocyst rate was significantly higher in the 1 COC:4 DO (34.4%) and in the 1 COC:5 DO (34.9%) groups (p < 0.05) when compared with other groups. Maturation rate, cleavage rate and total cell number showed no significant difference between control and treatment groups. Amplification by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) showed up-regulation of growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) in the cumulus cells in the 1 COC:4 DO group at 44 h. We conclude that denuded porcine oocytes could improve the maturation of COC as evidenced by increased blastocyst development in the 1 COC:4 DO, even though cumulus expansion was poor. This improvement could be a result of the GDF9 up-regulation.
In non-human primates, it is difficult to collect sufficient numbers of oocytes for producing identical embryos by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Because of this factor, inter-species SCNT (iSCNT) using heterospecific oocytes is an attractive alternative approach. The objective of this study was to produce iSCNT-derived blastocysts using enucleated cow (Bos taurus) metaphase II oocytes and adult rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) fibroblasts. Ear skin tissue from a 6-year-old male rhesus monkey was collected by biopsy and fibroblasts were isolated. Immature cumulus–oocyte complexes from cow ovaries were collected and matured in vitro in Medium 199. The enucleated oocytes were reconstructed with rhesus monkey fibroblasts and iSCNT embryos were cultured in modified synthetic oviduct fluid in an atmosphere of 5–5.5% CO2 under various conditions (37–39 °C and 5–20% O2) to examine the effects of in vitro culture conditions. Most embryos were arrested at the 8- or 16-cell stage and only three blastocysts were derived in this way using iSCNT from a total of 1153 cultured activated embryos (0.26% production rate). Two of the three blastocysts were used for counting nuclear numbers using bisbenzimide staining, which were 51 and 24. The other iSCNT-derived blastocyst was used to analyse mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) by PCR, and both rhesus monkey and cow mtDNA were detected. Although the development rate was extremely low, this study established that iSCNT using two phylogenetically distant species, including a primate, could produce blastocysts. With improvements in the development rate, it may be possible to produce rhesus monkey iSCNT-derived embryonic stem cell lines for studies on primate nucleus and cow mitochondria interaction mechanisms.
Treatment with 6-dimethylaminopurine (6-DMAP) or demecolcine (DE) for several (at least 2) hours after artificial activation is known to improve in vitro development of porcine embryos. However, several reports have also shown that treatments with these chemicals induce apoptosis. The aim of this study was to find out whether short-term treatment with 6-DMAP and DE combined with electrical or thimerosal/dithiothreitol (Thi/DTT) activation had a beneficial effect on development of parthenogenetically activated porcine oocytes. We additionally treated embryos with 6-DMAP (2 mM) and/or DE (0.4 μg/ml) for a short time (40 min) after an electrical pulse (EP) or Thi/DTT. As a result, short-term treatment with 6-DMAP and DE successfully induced development of electrically or Thi/DTT-activated porcine parthenogenetic embryos with no significant difference in cleavage rate, blastocyst formation rate and total cell number compared with long-term treatment. To find optimal activation protocol, cleavage rate, blastocyst formation rate and total cell number were compared between EP and Thi/DTT treatments. Thi/DTT + 6-DMAP + DE showed significantly higher blastocyst formation rate (36.1 ± 3.5%) and total cell number (46.9 ± 1.0) than other groups (EP + 6-DMAP + DE, EP + Thi/DTT + 6-DMAP + DE: 23.3 ± 3.0%, 42.2 ± 1.1 and 17.2 ± 2.7%, 36.7 ± 1.5, respectively). In conclusion, this study demonstrates that short-term treatment with 6-DMAP and DE is as effective as the standard long-term treatment and Thi/DTT + 6-DMAP + DE exerts a synergistic effect.
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