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Patricia Grasa, Heidy Kaune and Suzannah A Williams

Female mice generating oocytes lacking complex N- and O-glycans (double mutants (DM)) produce only one small litter before undergoing premature ovarian failure (POF) by 3 months. Here we investigate the basis of the small litter by evaluating ovulation rate and embryo development in DM (Mgat1 F/F C1galt1 F/F:ZP3Cre) and Control (Mgat1 F/F C1galt1 F/F) females. Surprisingly, DM ovulation rate was normal at 6 weeks, but declined dramatically by 9 weeks. In vitro development of zygotes to blastocysts was equivalent to Controls although all embryos from DM females lacked a normal zona pellucida (ZP) and ∼30% lacked a ZP entirely. In contrast, in vivo preimplantation development resulted in less embryos recovered from DM females compared with Controls at 3.5 days post coitum (dpc) (3.2±1.3 vs 7.0±0.6). Furthermore, only 45% of mated DM females contained embryos at 3.5 dpc. Of the preimplantation embryos collected from DM females, approximately half were morulae unlike Controls where the majority were blastocysts, indicating delayed embryo development in DM females. Post-implantation development in DM females was analysed to determine whether delayed preimplantation development affected subsequent development. In DM females at 5.5 dpc, only ∼40% of embryos found at 3.5 dpc had implanted. However, at 6.5 dpc, implantation sites in DM females corresponded to embryo numbers at 3.5 dpc indicating delayed implantation. At 9.5 dpc, the number of decidua corresponded to embryo numbers 6 days earlier indicating that all implanted embryos progress to midgestation. Therefore, a lack of complex N- and O-glycans in oocytes during development impairs early embryo development and viability in vivo leading to delayed implantation and a small litter.