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Nuno Costa-Borges, Sheyla Gonzalez, Josep Santaló, and Elena Ibáñez

Mouse recipient cytoplasts for somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) are routinely prepared by mechanical enucleation (ME), an invasive procedure that requires expensive equipment and considerable micromanipulation skills. Alternatively, oocytes can be enucleated using chemically assisted (AE) or chemically induced (IE) enucleation methods that are technically simple. In this study, we compared the reprogramming potential and developmental capacity of cloned embryos generated by ME, AE, and IE procedures and treated with the histone deacetylase inhibitor valproic acid. A rapid and almost complete deacetylation of histone H3 lysine 14 in the somatic nucleus followed by an equally rapid and complete re-acetylation after activation was observed after the injection of a cumulus cell nucleus into ME and AE cytoplasts. In contrast, histone deacetylation occurred at a much lower level in IE cytoplasts. Despite these differences, the cloned embryos generated from the three types of cytoplasts developed into blastocysts of equivalent total and inner cell mass mean cell numbers, and the rates of blastocyst formation and embryonic stem cell derivation were similar among the three groups. The cloned embryos produced from ME and AE cytoplasts showed an equivalent rate of full-term development, but no offspring could be obtained from the IE group, suggesting a lower reprogramming capacity of IE cytoplasts. Our results demonstrate the usefulness of AE in mouse SCNT procedures, as an alternative to ME. AE can facilitate oocyte enucleation and avoid the need for expensive microscope optics, or for potentially damaging Hoechst staining and u.v. irradiation, normally required in ME procedures.

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Anna Mallol, Laia Piqué, Josep Santaló, and Elena Ibáñez

Time-lapse monitoring of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) embryos may help to predict developmental success and increase birth and embryonic stem cells (ESC) derivation rates. Here, the development of ICSI fertilized embryos and of SCNT embryos, non-treated or treated with either psammaplin A (PsA) or vitamin C (VitC), was monitored, and the ESC derivation rates from the resulting blastocysts were determined. Blastocyst rates were similar among PsA-treated and VitC-treated SCNT embryos and ICSI embryos, but lower for non-treated SCNT embryos. ESC derivation rates were higher in treated SCNT embryos than in non-treated or ICSI embryos. Time-lapse microscopy analysis showed that non-treated SCNT embryos had a delayed development from the second division until compaction, lower number of blastomeres at compaction and longer compaction and cavitation durations compared with ICSI ones. Treatment of SCNT embryos with PsA further increased this delay whereas treatment with VitC slightly reduced it, suggesting that both treatments act through different mechanisms, not necessarily related to their epigenetic effects. Despite these differences, the time of completion of the third division, alone or combined with the duration of compaction and/or the presence of fragmentation, had a strong predictive value for blastocyst formation in all groups. In contrast, we failed to predict ESC derivation success from embryo morphokinetics. Time-lapse technology allows the selection of SCNT embryos with higher developmental potential and could help to increase cloning outcomes. Nonetheless, further studies are needed to find reliable markers for full-term development and ESC derivation success.

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Elena Ibáñez, David F Albertini, and Eric W Overström

With the aim of investigating the effects of oocyte genotype and activating stimulus on the timing of nuclear events after activation, oocytes collected from hybrid B6D2F1, inbred C57BL/6 and outbred CF-1 and immunodeficient nude (NU/+) females were activated using ethanol or strontium and fixed at various time-points. Meiotic status, spindle rotation and second polar body (PB2) extrusion were monitored by fluorescence microscopy using DNA-, microtubule- and microfilament-selective probes. Although activation efficiency was similar in all groups of oocytes, a significant percentage of CF-1 and NU/+ oocytes treated with ethanol and of C57BL/6 oocytes treated either with ethanol or strontium failed to complete activation and became arrested at a new metaphase stage (MIII) after PB2 extrusion. C57BL/6 oocytes also showed slower release from MII arrest but faster progression to telophase (TII) after ethanol exposure, and they exhibited the most rapid exit from TII under both activation treatments. Strontium caused delayed meiotic resumption, spindle rotation and PB2 extrusion, but rapid TII exit, in B6D2F1, CF-1 and NU/+ oocytes when compared with ethanol. Compared with all other strains, NU/+ oocytes were significantly slower in completing spindle rotation and PB2 extrusion, irrespective of the activating stimulus, and a significant decrease in activation rates and pace of meiotic progression was observed after strontium exposure. Thus, our findings demonstrated that the kinetics of meiosis resumption and completion, spindle rotation and PB2 extrusion following parthenogenetic activation depends on both genotype-specific factors and on the activation treatment applied.

Free access

Elena Ibáñez, Alexandra Sanfins, Catherine M H Combelles, Eric W Overström, and David F Albertini

The interplay between genetic and epigenetic factors plays a central role in mammalian embryo production strategies that superimpose ex vivo or in vivo manipulations upon strain background characteristics. In this study, we examined the relationship between genetic background and the phenotypic properties of mouse metaphase-II (M-II) oocytes that were matured under in vivo (IVO) or in vitro conditions, either in a basal (IVM) or a supplemented (IVM + ) medium. Differences existed amongst inbred (C57BL/6), outbred (CF-1, Black Swiss, NU/NU) and hybrid lines (B6D2F1) induced to superovulate with regard to cytoplasmic microtubule organizing center (MTOC) number but not spindle size or shape, except for larger and asymmetrical spindles in Black Swiss oocytes. When oocytes were matured in culture, meiotic spindle and cytoplasmic phenotypic properties of M-II oocytes were affected relative to in vivo conditions and between strains. Specifically, measures of meiotic spindle size, shape, polar pericentrin distribution and cytoplasmic MTOC number all revealed characteristic variations. Interestingly, the overall reduction in cytoplasmic MTOC number noted upon IVM was concomitant with an overall increase in spindle and polar body size. Maturation under IVM + conditions resulted in a further decrease in cytoplasmic MTOC number, but spindle and polar body characteristics were intermediate between IVO and IVM. How these oocyte phenotypic properties of maternal origin may be linked to predictive assessments of fecundity remains to be established.