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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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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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Wen-Min Cheng, Lei An, Zhong-Hong Wu, Yu-Bo Zhu, Jing-Hao Liu, Hong-Mei Gao, Xi-He Li, Shi-Jun Zheng, Dong-Bao Chen, and Jian-Hui Tian

We recently reported that electrical activation followed by secondary chemical activation greatly enhanced the developmental competence of in vitro matured porcine oocytes fertilized by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). We hypothesized that sperm treatment with disulfide bond reducing agents will enhance the development competence of porcine embryos produced by this ICSI procedure. We examined the effects of glutathione (GSH), dithiothreitol (DTT), GSH or DTT in combination with heparin on sperm DNA structure, paternal chromosomal integrity, pronuclear formation, and developmental competence of in vitro matured porcine oocytes after ICSI. Acridine orange staining and flow cytometry based sperm chromatin structure assay were used to determine sperm DNA integrity by calculating the cells outside the main population (COMP αT). No differences were observed in COMP αT values among GSH-treated and control groups. COMP αT values in GSH-treated groups were significantly lower than that in DTT-treated groups. Following ICSI, GSH treatments did not significantly alter paternal chromosomal integrity. Paternal chromosomal integrity in sperm treated with DTT plus or minus heparin was also the lowest among all groups. GSH-treated sperm yielded the highest rates of normal fertilization and blastocyst formation, which were significantly higher than that of control and DTT-treated groups. The majority of blastocysts derived from control and GSH-treated spermatozoa were diploid, whereas blastocysts derived from DTT-treated spermatozoa were haploid. In conclusion, sperm treatment with GSH enhanced the developmental capacity of porcine embryos produced by our optimized ICSI procedure.

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Shu-Fang Wang, Xi-Hua Chen, Bin He, De-Dong Yin, Hai-Jun Gao, Hao-Qi Zhao, Nan Nan, Shi-Ge Guo, Jian-Bing Liu, Bin Wu, and Xiang-Bo Xu

Stress impacts the reproductive axis at the level of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which exert an effect on the ovary. Menstruation is regulated by the hypothalamic–pituitary–ovary (HPO) axis. However, the role of stress in menstruation remains unclear. The objective of this study was to explore the role of stress in endometrial breakdown and shedding, using the pseudopregnant mouse menstrual-like model. Female mice were mated with vasectomized males and labeled day 0.5, upon observation of a vaginal seminal plug. On day 3.5, decidualization was induced in pseudopregnant mice using arachis oil. On day 5.5, pseudopregnant mice with artificial decidualization were placed in restraint tubes for 3 h. The findings indicated that acute restraint stress resulted in the disintegration of the endometrium. While corticosterone concentration in the serum increased significantly due to restraint stress, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone (P4) levels in the serum decreased significantly. An endometrial histology examination indicated that progesterone implants may rescue P4 decline caused by acute stress and block endometrium breakdown and shedding. In addition, mice were treated with metyrapone, an inhibitor of corticosterone synthesis, 1 h prior to being subjected to restraint stress. Interestingly, metyrapone not only inhibited stress-induced endometrium breakdown and shedding, but also prevented stress-induced reduction of P4, LH and FSH. Furthermore, real-time PCR and western blot showed that mRNA and protein expression of CYP11A1 (cytochrome P450, family 11, subfamily A, polypeptide 1) and steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), the two rate-limiting enzymes for progesterone synthesis in the ovary, decreased following acute stress. But metyrapone prevented the reduction of StAR expression induced by restraint stress. Overall, this study revealed that acute stress results in an increase in corticosterone, which may inhibit LH and FSH release in the serum and CYP11A1 and StAR expression in the ovary, which finally leads to the breakdown and shedding of the endometrium. These experimental findings, based on the mouse model, may enable further understanding of the effects of stress on menstruation regulation and determine the potential factors affecting stress-associated menstrual disorders.

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Marcela Vilarino, Delia Alba Soto, Yanina Soledad Bogliotti, Leqian Yu, Yanli Zhang, Chunsheng Wang, Erika Paulson, Cuiqing Zhong, Miaohan Jin, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, Jun Wu, and Pablo Juan Ross

Until recently, it has been difficult to derive and maintain stable embryonic stem cells lines from livestock species. Sheep ESCs with characteristics similar to those described for rodents and primates have not been produced. We report the derivation of sheep ESCs under a chemically defined culture system containing fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) and a tankyrase/Wnt inhibitor (IWR1). We also show that several culture conditions used for stabilizing naïve and intermediate pluripotency states in humans and mice were unsuitable to maintain ovine pluripotency in vitro. Sheep ESCs display a smooth dome-shaped colony morphology, and maintain an euploid karyotype and stable expression of pluripotency markers after more than 40 passages. We further demonstrate that IWR1 and FGF2 are essential for the maintenance of an undifferentiated state in de novo derived sheep ESCs. The derivation of stable pluripotent cell lines from sheep blastocysts represents a step forward toward understanding pluripotency regulation in livestock species and developing novel biomedical and agricultural applications.