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Michael Hoelker, Franka Rings, Qamaruddin Lund, Nasser Ghanem, Chirawath Phatsara, Josef Griese, Karl Schellander, and Dawit Tesfaye

The Well of the Well (WOW) system has been developed to culture embryos in small groups or to track the development of single embryos. In the present study, we aimed to examine the effects of the microenvironment provided by the WOW system and embryo density on developmental rates, embryo quality and preimplantative gene expression profile of the resulting embryos. Embryos cultured in a group of 16 reached the blastocyst stage at a significantly lower level than zygotes cultured in a group of 50 (22.2 vs 30.3%), whereas zygotes cultured in WOW were able to compensate against low embryo densities, reaching a blastocyst rate as high as embryos cultured in a group of 50 (31.3 vs 30.3%). Moreover, embryos derived from WOW culture did not differ in terms of differential cell counts and apoptotic cell index compared with controls. The gene expression analysis revealed 62 transcripts to be upregulated and 33 transcripts to be downregulated by WOW culture. Comparing the in vivo derived blastocysts with the blastocysts derived from WOW culture, and group culture, expression of ATP5A1, PLAC8 and KRT8 was more similar to the embryos derived from WOW culture, whereas expression of S100A10 and ZP3 genes was more similar to blastocysts cultured in a group. In conclusion, microenvironment as well as embryo density significantly affected developmental rates. While subsequent blastocysts did not differ in terms of differential cell counts and apoptotic cell index, significant differences were observed in terms of the relative abundance of transcripts in the resulting embryos.

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Helmut Torner, Nasser Ghanem, Christina Ambros, Michael Hölker, Wolfgang Tomek, Chirawath Phatsara, Hannelore Alm, Marc-André Sirard, Wilhelm Kanitz, Karl Schellander, and Dawit Tesfaye

Oocyte selection based on glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PDH) activity has been successfully used to differentiate between competent and incompetent bovine oocytes. However, the intrinsic molecular and subcellular characteristics of these oocytes have not yet been investigated. Here, we aim to identify molecular and functional markers associated with oocyte developmental potential when selected based on G6PDH activity. Immature compact cumulus–oocyte complexes were stained with brilliant cresyl blue (BCB) for 90 min. Based on their colouration, oocytes were divided into BCB (colourless cytoplasm, high G6PDH activity) and BCB+ (coloured cytoplasm, low G6PDH activity). The chromatin configuration of the nucleus and the mitochondrial activity of oocytes were determined by fluorescence labelling and photometric measurement. The abundance and phosphorylation pattern of protein kinases Akt and MAP were estimated by Western blot analysis. A bovine cDNA microarray was used to analyse the gene expression profiles of BCB+ and BCB oocytes. Consequently, marked differences were found in blastocyst rate at day 8 between BCB+ (33.1±3.1%) and BCB (12.1±1.5%) oocytes. Moreover, BCB+ oocytes were found to show higher phosphorylation levels of Akt and MAP kinases and are enriched with genes regulating transcription (SMARCA5), cell cycle (nuclear autoantigenic sperm protein, NASP) and protein biosynthesis (RPS274A and mRNA for elongation factor 1α, EF1A). BCB oocytes, which revealed higher mitochondrial activity and still nucleoli in their germinal vesicles, were enriched with genes involved in ATP synthesis (ATP5A1), mitochondrial electron transport (FL405), calcium ion binding (S100A10) and growth factor activity (bone morphogenetic protein 15, BMP15). This study has evidenced molecular and subcellular organisational differences of oocytes with different G6PDH activity.