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Polyspermy is fairly common during porcine in vitro fertilisation (IVF), perhaps due to incomplete in vitro oocyte maturation (IVM). Porcine cumulus cells (CCs) layered around the oocyte produce large amounts of extracellular hyaluronan (HA) when forming an expanding cell cloud during the last phase of oocyte maturation. The specific actions of HA are mediated via HA-binding proteins (HABPs), such as CD44, which act as receptors. In this study using immunocytochemistry and western blotting we investigated the localisation of CD44 in CCs obtained from in vivo-matured pig cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) and compared it with that in CCs from immature COCs and of COCs subjected to IVM and IVF procedures. Immunolabelling of CD44 was absent or very weak in CCs from immature COCs but strongly present on the surface of the CCs obtained from in vivo, displaying a similar localisation in the in vitro-matured COCs. In the latter, the labelling decreased but did not disappear in CCs 4 h after sperm co-incubation during IVF. Immunoblotting detected bands of between 73 and 88 kDa, corresponding to CD44, in the protein extract from in vivo CCs collected immediately prior to, or following spontaneous ovulation. The in vitro-matured CCs, however, presented bands ranging from 81 kDa to 88 kDa. Also, the bands found in the in vivo-matured CCs showed a larger variation of intensity and migration among animals than did the batches of in vitro-matured CCs. No CD44 band was detected on aliquots of the frozen-thawed boar spermatozoa used for IVF. The results clearly demonstrate that the specific HA receptor CD44 is present in expanding CCs of in vivo-matured pig COCs, in relation to increasing amounts of inter-CC HA. The subtle differences in molecular weight and migration ability observed between in vivo and in vitro samples may relate to differences in glycosylation and thus explain differences in HA-binding ability, of consequence for optimising in vitro culture conditions.
Lipid content in mammalian oocytes or embryos differs among species, with bovine and porcine oocytes and embryos showing large cytoplasmic droplets. These droplets are considered to play important roles in energy metabolism during oocyte maturation, fertilisation and early embryonic development, and also in the freezing ability of oocytes or embryos; however, their detailed distribution or function is not well understood. In the present study, changes in the distribution and morphology of porcine lipid droplets during in vivo and in vitro fertilisation, in contrast to parthenogenetic oocyte activation, as well as during their development to blastocyst stage, were evaluated by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The analysis of semi-thin and ultra-thin sections by TEM showed conspicuous, large, electron-dense lipid droplets, sometimes associated with mitochondrial aggregates in the oocytes, irrespective of whether the oocytes had been matured in vivo or in vitro. Immediately after sperm penetration, the electron density of the lipid droplets was lost in both the in vivo and in vitro oocytes, the reduction being most evident in the oocytes developed in vitro. Density was restored in the pronculear oocytes, fully in the in vivo specimens but only partially in the in vitro ones. The number and size of the droplets seemed, however, to have decreased. At 2- to 4-cell and blastocyst stages, the features of the lipid droplets were almost the same as those of pronuclear oocytes, showing a homogeneous or saturated density in the in vivo embryos but a marbled or partially saturated appearance in the in vitro embryos. In vitro matured oocytes undergoing parthenogenesis had lipid droplets that resembled those of fertilised oocytes until the pronuclear stage. Overall, results indicate variations in both the morphology and amount of cytoplasmic lipid droplets during porcine oocyte maturation, fertilisation and early embryo development as well as differences between in vivo and in vitro development, suggesting both different energy status during preimplantation development in pigs and substantial differences between in vitro and in vivo development.
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