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Dong Han, Xin-Yan Cao, Hui-Li Wang, Jing-Jing Li, Yan-Bo Wang, and Jing-He Tan

Although studies suggest that the low competence of oocytes from prepubertal animals is due to their insufficient cytoplasmic maturation and that FSH improves oocyte maturation possibly by retarding meiotic progression and allowing more time for cytoplasmic maturation, the mechanisms by which puberty and gonadotropins regulate meiotic progression require additional detailed studies. For the first time, we observed that while meiotic progression was significantly slower, the maturation-promoting factor (MPF) activity of oocytes was significantly higher in prepubertal than in adult mice. To resolve this contradiction, we specified the molecules regulating the MPF activity and their localization during oocyte maturation in prepubertal and adult mice primed with or without gonadotropins. Our tests using corresponding enzyme regulators suggested that while activities of protein kinase A were unaffected, the activity of adenylate cyclase (ADCY) and phosphodiesterase increased while cell division cycle 2 homolog A (CDC2A) decreased significantly after puberty. While most of the adult oocytes had CDC2A protein concentrated in the germinal vesicle (GV) region, the majority of prepubertal oocytes showed no nuclear concentration of CDC2A. Maximally priming mice with equine chorionic gonadotropin brought the above parameters of prepubertal oocytes close to those in adult oocytes. Together, the results suggest that puberty and gonadotropin control oocyte meiotic progression mainly by regulating the ADCY activity and the concentration of the activated MPF toward the GV region.

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Zheng-Bin Han, Guo-Cheng Lan, Yan-Guang Wu, Dong Han, Wei-Guo Feng, Jun-Zuo Wang, and Jing-He Tan

Using a well-in-drop (WID) oocyte/embryo culture system that allows identification of follicular origin, we have investigated the effects of granulosa cells (GCs) apoptosis, follicle size, cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) morphology, and cumulus expansion on the developmental competence of goat oocytes matured and cultured individually following parthenogenetic activation. The WID system supported oocyte maturation and embryo development to a level similar to the conventional group system. The majority of goat oocytes acquired competence for development up to the 8–16 cell stage in follicles larger than 2 mm, but did not gain the ability to form morula/blastocyst (M/Bs) until follicles larger than 3 mm in diameter. The extent of atresia affected M/Bs formation. This effect varied according to the follicle size. Cumulus expansion increased with follicle size and decreased with increasing incidence of GCs apoptosis. Oocyte developmental potential was also correlated with cumulus expansion. Regardless of the degree of follicle atresia, 73–84% of the floating cells in the follicular fluid (FF) underwent apoptosis. Correlation between floating cell density in FF and oocyte developmental potency suggests the possibility to use the floating cell density as a simple and non-invasive marker for oocyte quality. It is concluded that the developmental potential of an oocyte is determined by multifactor interactions, and multiple factors must be considered together to accurately predict the quality of an oocyte.

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Ping Zhou, Yan-Guang Wu, Qing Li, Guo-Cheng Lan, Gang Wang, Da Gao, and Jing-He Tan

To improve in vitro maturation (IVM) of denuded oocytes (DOs), we observed the interactive effects of cysteamine, cystine and cumulus cells on the glutathione (l-γ-glutamyl-l-cysteinyl-glycine; GSH) level and developmental capacity of goat IVM oocytes. Cysteamine supplementation increased the GSH level and blastocyst rates of both cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) and DOs, while the addition of cystine increased the GSH level and blastulation only in the presence of cumulus cells (COCs or DOs co-cultured on a cumulus cell monolayer). Simultaneous supplementation of cysteamine and cystine increased the GSH content and blastulation of co-cultured DOs to a level similar to that of COCs matured without thiol supplementation. Co-culture without thiol supplementation improved DOs' GSH synthesis but not blastulation. The results suggest that DOs cannot utilize cystine for GSH synthesis unless exogenous cysteamine is supplied by either cumulus cells or supplementation. Thus, while the addition of cystine alone is enough to improve IVM of COCs, improvement of DOs requires supplementation of both cystine and cysteamine. Synergic actions between cysteamine, cystine and cumulus cells restore the GSH level and developmental capacity of goat DOs.

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Jun-Zuo Wang, Hong-Shu Sui, De-Qiang Miao, Na Liu, Ping Zhou, Li Ge, and Jing-He Tan

The objectives of this study were to investigate the effect of heat stress during in vitro maturation on the developmental potential of mouse oocytes and to determine whether the deleterious effect was on the nuclear or cytoplasmic component. While rates of oocyte nuclear maturation (development to the metaphase II stage) did not differ from 37 to 40 °C, rates for blastocyst formation decreased significantly as maturation temperature increased from 38.5 to 39 °C. Chromosome spindle exchange showed that while blastocyst formation did not differ when spindles matured in vivo or in vitro at 37, 40 or 40.7 °C were transplanted into in vivo matured cytoplasts, no blastocyst formation was observed when in vivo spindles were transferred into the 40 °C cytoplasts. While oocytes reconstructed between 37 °C ooplasts and 37 or 40 °C karyoplasts developed into 4-cell embryos at a similar rate, no oocytes reconstituted between 40 °C ooplasts and 37 °C spindles developed to the 4-cell stage. Immunofluorescence microscopy revealed impaired migration of cortical granules and mitochondria in oocytes matured at 40 °C compared with oocytes matured at 37 °C. A decreased glutathione/GSSG ratio was also observed in oocytes matured at 40 °C. While spindle assembling was normal and no MAD2 was activated in oocytes matured at 37 or 40 °C, spindle assembling was affected and MAD2 was activated in some of the oocytes matured at 40.7 °C. It is concluded that 1) oocyte cytoplasmic maturation is more susceptible to heat stress than nuclear maturation, and 2) cytoplasmic rather than nuclear components determine the pre-implantation developmental capacity of an oocyte.

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Qiao-Qiao Kong, Guo-Liang Wang, Jin-Song An, Jia Wang, Hao Cheng, Tao Liu, and Jing-He Tan

Postovulatory oocyte aging is one of the major causes for human early pregnancy loss and for a decline in the population of some mammalian species. Thus, the mechanisms for oocyte aging are worth exploring. While it is known that ovulated oocytes age within the oviduct and that female stresses impair embryo development by inducing apoptosis of oviductal cells, it is unknown whether the oviduct and/or female stress would affect postovulatory oocyte aging. By comparing aging characteristics, including activation susceptibility, maturation-promoting factor activity, developmental potential, cytoplasmic fragmentation, spindle/chromosome morphology, gene expression, and cumulus cell apoptosis, this study showed that oocytes aged faster in vivo in restraint-stressed mice than in unstressed mice than in vitro. Our further analysis demonstrated that oviductal cells underwent apoptosis with decreased production of growth factors with increasing time after ovulation, and female restraint facilitated apoptosis of oviductal cells. Furthermore, mating prevented apoptosis of oviductal cells and alleviated oocyte aging after ovulation. In conclusion, the results demonstrated that mouse oviducts underwent apoptosis and facilitated oocyte aging after ovulation; female restraint facilitated oocyte aging while enhancing apoptosis of oviductal cells; and copulation ameliorated oviductal apoptosis and oocyte aging.

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Hua-Yu Lian, Yan Gao, Guang-Zhong Jiao, Ming-Ju Sun, Xiu-Fen Wu, Tian-Yang Wang, Hong Li, and Jing-He Tan

In this study, using a mouse model, we tested the hypothesis that restraint stress would impair the developmental potential of oocytes by causing oxidative stress and that antioxidant supplementation could overcome the adverse effect of stress-induced oxidative stress. Female mice were subjected to restraint stress for 24 h starting 24 h after equine chorionic gonadotropin injection. At the end of stress exposure, mice were either killed to recover oocytes for in vitro maturation (IVM) or injected with human chorionic gonadotropin and caged with male mice to observe in vivo development. The effect of antioxidants was tested in vitro by adding them to IVM medium or in vivo by maternal injection immediately before restraint stress exposure. Assays carried out to determine total oxidant and antioxidant status, oxidative stress index, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) and glutathione levels indicated that restraint stress increased oxidative stress in mouse serum, ovaries, and oocytes. Whereas the percentage of blastocysts and number of cells per blastocyst decreased significantly in oocytes from restraint-stressed mice, addition of antioxidants to IVM medium significantly improved their blastocyst development. Supplementation of cystine and cysteamine to IVM medium reduced ROS levels and aneuploidy while increasing glutathione synthesis and improving pre- and postimplantation development of oocytes from restraint-stressed mice. Furthermore, injection of the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate into restraint-stressed mice significantly improved the blastocyst formation and postimplantation development of their oocytes. In conclusion, restraint stress at the oocyte prematuration stage impaired the developmental potential of oocytes by increasing oxidative stress and addition of antioxidants to IVM medium or maternal antioxidant injection overcame the detrimental effect of stress-induced oxidative stress. The data reported herein are helpful when making attempts to increase the chances of a successful outcome in human IVF, because restraint was applied at a stage similar to the FSH stimulation period in a human IVF program.

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Na Liu, Yan-Guang Wu, Guo-Cheng Lan, Hong-Shu Sui, Li Ge, Jun-Zuo Wang, Yong Liu, Tian-Wu Qiao, and Jing-He Tan

Inhibiting oocyte aging is important not only for healthy reproduction but also for the success of assisted reproduction techniques. Although our previous studies showed that cumulus cells accelerated aging of mouse oocytes, the underlying mechanism is unknown. The objective of this paper was to study the effects of pyruvate and cumulus cells on mouse oocyte aging. Freshly ovulated mouse cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) or cumulus-denuded oocytes (DOs) were cultured in Chatot-Ziomek-Bavister (CZB) medium or COC-conditioned CZB medium supplemented with different concentrations of pyruvate before being examined for aging signs and developmental potential. Pyruvate supplementation to CZB medium decreased rates of ethanol-induced activation in both COCs and DOs by maintaining their maturation-promoting factor activities, but more pyruvate was needed for COCs than for DOs. Addition of pyruvate to the COC-conditioned CZB also alleviated aging of DOs. Observations on cortical granules, level of BCL2 proteins, histone acetylation, intracellular concentration of glutathione, and embryo development all confirmed that pyruvate supplementation inhibited aging of mouse oocytes. It is concluded that the aging of mouse oocytes, facilitated by culture in COCs, can be partially prevented by the addition of pyruvate to the culture medium.

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Hong-Jie Yuan, Zhi-Bin Li, Xin-Yue Zhao, Guang-Yi Sun, Guo-Liang Wang, Ying-Qi Zhao, Min Zhang, and Jing-He Tan

Mechanisms by which female stress and particularly glucocorticoids impair oocyte competence are largely unclear. Although one study demonstrated that glucocorticoids triggered apoptosis in ovarian cells and oocytes by activating the FasL/Fas system, other studies suggested that they might induce apoptosis through activating other signaling pathways as well. In this study, both in vivo and in vitro experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that glucocorticoids might trigger apoptosis in oocytes and ovarian cells through activating the TNF-α system. The results showed that cortisol injection of female mice (1.) impaired oocyte developmental potential and mitochondrial membrane potential with increased oxidative stress; (2.) induced apoptosis in mural granulosa cells (MGCs) with increased oxidative stress in the ovary; and (3.) activated the TNF-α system in both ovaries and oocytes. Culture with corticosterone induced apoptosis and activated the TNF-α system in MGCs. Knockdown or knockout of TNF-α significantly ameliorated the pro-apoptotic effects of glucocorticoids on oocytes and MGCs. However, culture with corticosterone downregulated TNF-α expression significantly in oviductal epithelial cells. Together, the results demonstrated that glucocorticoids impaired oocyte competence and triggered apoptosis in ovarian cells through activating the TNF-α system and that the effect of glucocorticoids on TNF-α expression might vary between cell types.

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Xue-Ying Zhang, Yi-Meng Xiong, Ya-Jing Tan, Li Wang, Rong Li, Yong Zhang, Xin-Mei Liu, Xian-Hua Lin, Li Jin, Yu-Ting Hu, Zhen-Hua Tang, Zheng-Mu Wu, Feng-Hua Yin, Zheng-Quan Wang, Ye Xiao, Jian-Zhong Sheng, and He-Feng Huang

Fertilization failure often occurs during in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles despite apparently normal sperm and oocytes. Accumulating evidence suggests that mitochondria play crucial roles in the regulation of sperm function and male fertility. 3-Nitrophthalic acid (3-NPA) can induce oxidative stress in mitochondria, and melatonin, as an antioxidant, can improve mitochondrial function by reducing mitochondrial oxidative stress. The role of sperm mitochondrial dysfunction in fertilization failure during IVF is unclear. The present study revealed that spermatozoa with low, or poor, fertilization rates had swollen mitochondria, increased mitochondria-derived ROS, and attenuated mitochondrial respiratory capacity. 3-NPA treatment enhanced mitochondrial dysfunction in sperm. Spermatozoa with poor fertilization rates, and spermatozoa treated with 3-NPA, had reduced penetration ability. The concentration of melatonin was decreased in semen samples with low and poor fertilization rates. Melatonin, not only decreased excessive mitochondria-derived ROS, but also ‘rescued’ the reduced penetration capacity of spermatozoa treated with 3-NPA. Taken together, the study suggested that mitochondria-derived ROS and mitochondrial respiratory capacity are independent bio-markers for sperm dysfunction, and melatonin may be useful in improving sperm quality and overall male fertility.