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N. Tada, M. Sato, J. Yamanoi, T. Mizorogi, K. Kasai, and S. Ogawa

Summary. When mouse epididymal spermatozoa were rapidly frozen in two steps (37 to −70°C for solid CO2 and −70 to −196°C for liquid nitrogen) as pellets, 18% raffinose provided the greatest protection to ICR mouse spermatozoa against cold-shock; sperm motility and fertilizing ability were 43% and 22·4%, respectively. A small proportion of spermatozoa frozen with 10% sucrose was motile but incapable of fertilizing ovulated oocytes. Glycerol and dimethylsulphoxide were less effective at any concentration examined. However, the fertilizing ability of frozen–thawed ICR spermatozoa was significantly improved (35·5%) by addition of glycerol (1·75% final concentration) to medium containing 18% raffinose. Spermatozoa from one outbred (ddY) and 5 inbred (C57BL/6N, C3H/HeN, DBA/2N, BALB/c and kk) strains of mice were successfully frozen in the presence of 18% raffinose and 1·75% glycerol, although the fertilization rates of frozen–thawed spermatozoa varied among strains (13% for C57BL/6N to 64% for DBA/2N). A small fraction of mouse eggs resulting from fertilization by frozen–thawed spermatozoa developed normally in vitro (37% in C57BL/6N to 71% in ICR) to the blastocyst stage and in vivo (19% for C57BL/6N spermatozoa and ddY oocytes) to Day 18 of gestation.

Keywords: mouse; spermatozoa; cryopreservation; pellet method; cryoprotectant; raffinose

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A. M. Donoghue, L. A. Johnston, U. S. Seal, D. L. Armstrong, L. G. Simmons, T. Gross, R. L. Tilson, and D. E. Wildt

Summary. Electroejaculates from tigers were collected and half was used fresh to inseminate tiger eggs in vitro and domestic cat eggs stored in a hypertonic salt solution. The remainder was pelleted, frozen in a solution of 20% egg yolk, 11% lactose and 4% glycerol, thawed and cultured with tiger and domestic cat eggs. The motility index ((sperm % motility) + (status rating × 20))/2 for thawed spermatozoa was about 86% of that in fresh aliquots. Of the 49 tiger oocytes inseminated in vitro with fresh spermatozoa, 34 (69·4%) cleaved, compared with 33 of 47 oocytes (70·2%) cultured with thawed spermatozoa (P > 0·05). Embryos generated by either sperm treatment could develop in vitro to the 16-cell or morula stage. Fresh and thawed tiger spermatozoa were equally capable (P > 0·05) of binding and penetrating the outer and inner zona pellucida of domestic cat eggs. These results demonstrate the ability of frozen–thawed tiger spermatozoa to (i) penetrate homologous and heterologous eggs and (ii) result in conspecific, advanced development of preimplantation embryos in vitro.

Keywords: tiger; spermatozoa; cryopreservation; in vitro fertilization; embryo

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Hsiao Yun Yang, Shae-Lee Cox, Graham Jenkin, Jock Findlay, Alan Trounson, and Jillian Shaw

Ovarian tissue cryopreservation and subsequent transplantation can restore fertility in cancer patients. This study used a mouse ovarian grafting model to investigate whether the graft site (bursal cavity, the kidney capsule or subcutaneous) influences the number, fertilization rate and developmental potential of oocytes recovered from grafts and whether using a standard gonadotrophin stimulation protocol would increase oocyte yield from the grafts. Mouse ovarian tissue was grafted into four week old mice and collected three weeks later. Graft recipients were treated either with or without exogenous gonadotrophin stimulation prior to graft collection. Grafted ovaries yielded oocytes that were either at the germinal vesicle (GV) stage or mature metaphase II (MII) stage at collection. These GV oocytes were matured before in vitro fertilization (IVF), while the MII oocytes underwent IVF immediately. Oocytes collected from the oviducts of non-grafted superovulated mice of the same age served as controls. Two-cell embryos were transferred to pseudopregnant recipients and recovered at day 15 of gestation or left to go to term. Graft retrieval and the number of oocytes from each graft were lowest from the subcutaneous graft site. The number of two-cell embryos produced was significantly higher for oocytes from the grafts to the bursa as compared with the other sites. All graft sites gave rise to embryos with comparable implantation rates and developmental potential to fetuses and offspring following transfer. However, the oocytes from grafted ovaries had a significantly lower developmental potential when compared with the control group. Stimulation with exogenous gonadotrophins did not significantly increase oocyte yield from grafted ovaries but did enhance oocyte maturation and development. In conclusion, graft site affects the number and quality of oocytes produced from ovarian grafts.

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S. J. Fuller and D. G. Whittingham

Attempts to freeze mouse spermatozoa in liquid nitrogen (−196°C) have met with limited success. In an attempt to identify the factor(s) that damage mouse spermatozoa during cryopreservation, the effect of slow cooling to 4°C was examined. Epididymal spermatozoa were collected into a variety of media at 37°C, cooled slowly to 4°C over 4 h and warmed in a water bath at 37°C for 5 min. Survival of spermatozoa was assessed by motility, membrane integrity and acrosome status. Labelling with chlortetracycline showed that > 80% of spermatozoa were capacitated and had intact acrosomes immediately after warming compared with < 20% of freshly collected (control) spermatozoa. The rate of fertilization in vitro was similar using spermatozoa cooled in Dulbecco's phosphate-buffered saline and then mixed with oocytes immediately after warming and with control spermatozoa incubated for 2 h before mixing with oocytes (85%). Fewer oocytes were fertilized with spermatozoa cooled in either a modified HEPES-buffered Tyrode's medium or a simple HEPES-buffered medium with a high osmolarity (D3), 63% and 58%, respectively. Two-cell embryos were transferred to the oviducts of pseudopregnant recipients. Implantation was similar in all groups 81–88% and 54–74% of embryos formed normal late stage fetuses.

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A. P. Byers, A. G. Hunter, U. S. Seal, G. A. Binczik, E. F. Graham, N. J. Reindl, and R. L. Tilson

Summary. Electroejaculates from 5 tigers were split and half of each was assayed fresh while the remainder was frozen and thawed before being assayed. Preincubation time, temperature and removal of seminal plasma were evaluated for their effect on in-vitro capacitation. Ability of spermatozoa to penetrate oocytes, as measured by the zona-free hamster egg–sperm penetration assay (SPA), was used as verification of capacitation. Results of the experiments with fresh semen indicate that: (1) preincubation time affects the fertilizability of tiger spermatozoa with 2 h appearing optimal, (2) a preincubation temperature of 37°C results in significantly higher penetration rates than does a 22°C treatment, and (3) tiger seminal plasma does not appear to contain decapacitation factors, as has been reported for several other species. Frozen semen experiments indicate that (1) frozen–thawed tiger spermatozoa must be removed from the environment of the semen extender before capacitation can take place, and (2) the freeze–thaw procedure results in a shortening of the required capacitation time.

Keywords: capacitation; Siberian tiger; spermatozoa; cryopreservation

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A. C. Schroeder, A. K. Champlin, L. E. Mobraaten, and J. J. Eppig

Summary. The survival and developmental capacity of cumulus cell-enclosed oocytes frozen (1) at the germinal vesicle (GV) stage, after maturation in vitro with (2) and without (3) FSH, and (4) after gonadotrophin-stimulated ovulation were assessed. Survival, defined as the number of morphologically normal oocytes, after freeze–thaw at the GV stage (69%), was lower than for oocytes frozen after ovulation (84%), and after maturation in vitro with FSH (88%) and without FSH (81%). Treatment with DMSO without freezing had no effect on survival when compared with untreated controls except in immature GV-stage oocytes for which there was a slight reduction. After insemination in vitro, 9% of frozen–thawed GV-stage oocytes cleaved to two equal blastomeres, but none developed to blastocysts. Of oocytes matured in vitro before freezing, 17% cleaved to the 2-cell stage and 18% of these developed to blastocysts. When oocytes were matured in vitro in the presence of FSH, however, the percentage cleaving to the 2-cell stage after freeze–thaw was improved to 55%, and 77% of 2-cell stage embryos developed to blastocysts. When ovulated cumulus cell-enclosed oocytes were frozen, 88% cleaved and 67% of the cleaved embryos developed to blastocysts. When 158 two-cell embryos resulting from oocytes matured in vitro with FSH were transferred to the oviducts of pseudopregnant foster mothers, 41 genetically marked live young were produced (26%). These results demonstrate (1) that ova frozen after ovulation undergo normal preimplantation development with frequencies at or near those for unfrozen control oocytes, (2) FSH treatment of oocytes maturing in vitro greatly improves the capacity to cleave and develop to blastocysts after freeze–thaw and (3) oocytes frozen at the GV stage survive cryopreservation and undergo maturation in vitro but their developmetnal ability is severely impaired.

Keywords: freezing; oocyte maturation; oocyte preservation; fertilization; mouse

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M. Kuwayama, S. Hamano, and T. Nagai

Summary. Two experiments were conducted to assess the viability of bovine blastocysts obtained by in vitro fertilization of oocytes matured in vitro (IVM–IVF) and cryopreserved by vitrification. In Expt 1, the optimal concentrations of glycerol and 1,2-propanediol in the basic medium (modified TCM199) for cooling and warming without formation of ice crystals were determined by plunging the solution into liquid nitrogen and then warming it in a water bath at 15°C; when both glycerol and 1,2-propanediol were present in the solution (>45% v/v), vitrification of the medium was observed. In Expt 2, IVM–IVF blastocysts were equilibrated to the mixture of glycerol and 1,2-propanediol (0% to 45%) at 15°C in a stepwise manner as follows: (i) in one step, for 18 min to the final vitrification solution; (ii) in two steps, for 8 min in the first step and 10 min in the second step; (iii) in four steps, for 4 min in the first three steps and 6 min in the last step; (iv) in eight steps, for 2 min in each step, but 4 min in the last step; and (v) in 16 steps, for 1 min in each step, but 3 min in the last step. After removal of cryoprotectants, the blastocysts were cultured for 24 h in vitro. The survival rates for the embryos equilibrated in 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16 step(s) were 56, 89, 100, 100 and 100%, respectively. The blastocysts equilibrated in 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16 steps were vitrified by plunging the straws containing them into liquid N2, thawed and cultured in vitro. Higher survival rates were obtained for blastocysts equilibrated in 4, 8 and 16 steps (79, 82 and 87%, respectively) than for those in one (0%) or two (10%) steps. Ten blastocysts that survived after vitrification were transferred to ten recipients and six of these became pregnant. These results indicate that vitrification can be used for cryopreservation of blastocysts obtained by in vitro culture of IVM–IVF bovine follicular oocytes.

Keywords: in vitro; vitrification; fertilization; embryo transfer; cow

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Anna M Petrunkina, Barbara Gröpper, Anne-Rose Günzel-Apel, and Edda Töpfer-Petersen

Due to the similarity of plasma membrane changes induced by capacitation and cryopreservation, the parameters describing sperm response to capacitating conditions can be used for evaluating the cryopreservation response in many animal systems. In dog sperm, the response of the total sperm population to ionophore treatment has been shown to be an indication of the freezability of semen samples. Another sperm functional characteristic decisive for cryopreservability is cell volume regulation, due to the generation of essential osmotic gradients across the plasma membrane during the freeze-thaw cycles. In the present study, cryopreservation-induced changes in the membrane functional integrity were examined by monitoring the osmotically induced response of cell volume and the response to an ionophore in live cell populations. Cell volume measurements were performed on Percoll-washed suspensions of freshly diluted and frozen-thawed dog spermatozoa. The proportion of live acrosome-reacted cells was evaluated by flow cytometry after incubation under capacitating conditions in the presence of the calcium ionophore, A23187. During freezing-thawing, significant membrane changes occurred related to the disturbance of volume control ability and the loss of a proportion of live acrosome-reacted cells (P < 0.05). There were significant differences between individuals with respect to the degree of functional and structural membrane changes after thawing. Significant correlations were found between acrosomal integrity and functional membrane integrity. When assessed in freshly diluted semen, these parameters correlated with those of frozen-thawed semen samples, pointing to the similarities between mechanisms of cryopreservation-related changes and those mechanisms that mediate changes in membrane permeabilities and in cell volume regulation. The detection of changes in the sperm plasma membrane by monitoring the sperm cell volume represents a simple, rapid and sensitive method to estimate sperm quality after the cryopreservation procedure. The individual variability in response to osmotic stress or to calcium ionophore treatment appears to reflect the subtle differences in the sperm membrane functionality which are crucial for the prediction of cryopreservability.

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E Blesbois, I Grasseau, and F Seigneurin

The ability to survive cryopreservation varies in spermatozoa from different bird species. Among the biological factors potentially responsible for such differences, species variations in membrane fluidity have a role in the restoration of the physiological state after freezing. Membrane fluidity may be assessed by measuring fluorescence polarization anisotropy with a fluorescent dye. Anistropy values are proportional to membrane rigidity and consequently inversely proportional to membrane fluidity. In the present study, polarization anisotropy of spermatozoa originating from species differing in the freezability of their semen (chicken, turkey and guinea fowl) was measured in addition to lipid composition (cholesterol/phospholipid ratio), sperm viability (membrane permeability to eosine) and morphological integrity before and after cryopreservation.

The percentages of viable and normal spermatozoa in fresh sperm were highest in the chicken (87%), lowest in guinea fowl (64%), and intermediate in turkeys (69%). Anisotropy values were highest in guinea fowl (0.205), lowest in chickens (0.155), and intermediate in turkeys (0.180). As a consequence, membrane fluidity was highest in chickens and lowest in guinea fowl. Cryopreservation significantly decreased sperm viability and morphological integrity and increased anisotropy in all species but did not change the inter species hierarchy. Initial cholesterol/phospholipid ratios were lower in chickens than in guinea fowl, and intermediate in turkeys (0.25, 0.26 and 0.29, respectively). Cryopreservation induced a severe decrease in cholesterol/phospholipid ratios in turkeys and guinea fowl.

Sperm membrane fluidity in chickens, turkeys and guinea fowl behaves as an indicator of sperm freezability in these species. Inter species differences for this parameter may be partly explained by differences in initial cholesterol/phospholipids content of spermatozoa. On the other hand, the rigidifying process induced by cryopreservation is not related to lipid damage by the same mechanisms.

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J. A. Carnegie, J. J. Morgan, N. McDiarmid, and R. Durnford

A co-culture system for bovine embryos using mitomycin-treated Vero cells and serum-supplemented modified synthetic oviduct fluid (mSOF) supports the development of in vitro maturation and fertilization-derived oocytes to hatched blastocysts. In this system, it has been suggested that one contribution made by the co-culture cells to embryo development is production of the cytokine leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF). However, there are concerns about exposure of early embryos to serum due to its incompatibility with embryo cryosurvival. In this study, the influence of two protein supplements (synthetic serum substitute (SSS), a lipid-free human serum-derived product) and oestrous cow serum (ECS)) on Vero cell LIF secretion was compared, with the aim of designing a co-culture system that is supportive of bovine embryo cryopreservation. Vero cells cultured for 72 h in medium 199 + 5% fetal bovine serum (FBS) (recommended maintenance medium for this cell line) secreted detectable amounts of LIF (13.1 ± 0.9 pg LIF per 105 cells). Culture in mSOF, the medium routinely used in this laboratory for embryo culture, also supported LIF secretion in Vero cells. However, the amount of LIF was tenfold higher (24.7 ± 6.2 pg LIF per 105 cells; P < 0.05) when mSOF was supplemented with 10% (v/v) ECS compared with supplementation with 2% (v/v) SSS. Results of a second series of experiments in which supplementation with each protein was normalized to 10% revealed similar differences in LIF secretion, indicating that LIF secretion was affected by the type, not the amount, of protein. Time course analysis revealed stepwise increases (P < 0.05) in cumulative LIF secretion with every 24 h of culture in mSOF + either SSS or ECS. In terms of embryo development and post-cryopreservation viability, medium supplementation with 2% (v/v) SSS alone versus the two-step system of 2% (v/v) SSS (days 1–4) + 10% (v/v) ECS (days 4–10) had no influence (P > 0.05) on the ability of bovine blastocysts to hatch, with or without intervening cryostorage. However, the rate of blastocyst formation (expressed as the percentage of cleaved embryos) was only 27% in the presence of 2% (v/v) SSS, and increased almost twofold (P < 0.05) when ECS was added beginning on day 4 of co-culture. In summary, Vero cell LIF secretion was increased markedly by ECS. A two-step system of medium supplementation, in which embryos are exposed to ECS beginning on day 4 of in vitro development combined high rates of blastocyst formation with cryotolerance. This effect may be a result of limiting embryo exposure to serum-derived lipid until after the eight-cell stage and providing an increase in LIF during the critical developmental stages of compaction and cavitation.