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Following ovulation, oocytes undergo a time-dependent deterioration in quality referred to as post-ovulatory ageing. Although various factors influence the post-ovulatory ageing of oocytes, oxidative stress is a key factor involved in deterioration of oocyte quality. Artemisia asiatica Nakai ex Pamp. has been widely used in East Asia as a food ingredient and traditional medicine for the treatment of inflammation, cancer, and microbial infections. Recent studies have shown that A. asiatica exhibits antioxidative effects. In this study, we investigated whether A. asiatica has the potential to attenuate deterioration in oocyte quality during post-ovulatory ageing. Freshly ovulated mouse oocytes were cultured with 0, 50, 100 or 200 μg/ml ethanol extracts of A. asiatica Nakai ex Pamp. After culture for up to 24 h, various ageing-induced oocyte abnormalities, including morphological changes, reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation, apoptosis, chromosome and spindle defects, and mitochondrial aggregation were determined. Treatment of oocytes with A. asiatica extracts reduced ageing-induced morphological changes. Moreover, A. asiatica extracts decreased ROS generation and the onset of apoptosis by preventing elevation of the Bax/Bcl-2 expression ratio during post-ovulatory ageing. Furthermore, A. asiatica extracts attenuated the ageing-induced abnormalities including spindle defects, chromosome misalignment and mitochondrial aggregation. Our results demonstrate that A. asiatica can relieve deterioration in oocyte quality and delay the onset of apoptosis during post-ovulatory ageing.
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