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Young-Ho Choi, Pablo Ross, Isabel C Velez, B Macías-García, Fernando L Riera and Katrin Hinrichs

Equine embryos develop in vitro in the presence of high glucose concentrations, but little is known about their requirements for development. We evaluated the effect of glucose concentrations in medium on blastocyst development after ICSI. In experiment 1, there were no significant differences in rates of blastocyst formation among embryos cultured in our standard medium (DMEM/F-12), which contained >16 mM glucose, and those cultured in a minimal-glucose embryo culture medium (<1 mM; Global medium, GB), with either 0 added glucose for the first 5 days, then 20 mM (0-20) or 20 mM for the entire culture period (20-20). In experiment 2, there were no significant differences in the rates of blastocyst development (31–46%) for embryos cultured in four glucose treatments in GB (0-10, 0-20, 5-10, or 5-20). Blastocysts were evaluated by immunofluorescence for lineage-specific markers. All cells stained positively for POU5F1. An inner cluster of cells was identified that included presumptive primitive endoderm cells (GATA6-positive) and presumptive epiblast (EPI) cells. The 5-20 treatment resulted in a significantly lower number of presumptive EPI-lineage cells than the 0-20 treatment did. GATA6-positive cells appeared to be allocated to the primitive endoderm independent of the formation of an inner cell mass, as was previously hypothesized for equine embryos. These data demonstrate that equine blastocyst development is not dependent on high glucose concentrations during early culture; rather, environmental glucose may affect cell allocation. They also present the first analysis of cell lineage allocation in in vitro-fertilized equine blastocysts. These findings expand our understanding of the factors that affect embryo development in the horse.

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Niamh Lewis, Katrin Hinrichs, Henry J Leese, Caroline McGregor Argo, Daniel R Brison and Roger G Sturmey

The use of in vitro embryo production in the horse is increasing in clinical and research settings; however, protocols are yet to be optimised. Notably, the two most commonly used base media for in vitro maturation (IVM) supply glucose at markedly different concentrations: physiological (5.6 mM, M199) or supraphysiological (17 mM, DMEM/F-12). Exposure to high glucose has detrimental effects on oocytes and early embryos in many mammalian species, but the impact has not yet been examined in the horse. To address this, we compared the energy metabolism of equine COCs matured in M199-based maturation medium containing either 5.6 or 17 mM glucose, as well as expression of key genes in oocytes and cumulus cells. Oocytes were fertilised by ICSI and cultured. Analysis of spent medium revealed that COC glucose consumption and production of lactate and pyruvate were similar between treatments. However, the glycolytic index was decreased at 17 mM and analysis of mitochondrial function of COCs revealed that IVM in 17 mM glucose was associated with decreased ATP-coupled respiration and increased non-mitochondrial respiration compared to that for 5.6 mM glucose. We also found that the metabolic enzyme lactate dehydrogenase-A (LDHA) was downregulated in cumulus cells of oocytes that completed IVM in 17 mM glucose. There was no difference in maturation or blastocyst rates. These data indicate that COC mitochondrial function and gene expression are altered by high glucose concentration during IVM. Further work is needed to determine if these changes are associated with developmental changes in the resulting offspring.