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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.