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Manabu Ozawa, Qi-En Yang and Alan D Ealy

The overall aim of this work was to examine the expression profiles for fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs) and describe their biological importance during bovine pre- and peri-implantation conceptus development. FGFR1 and FGFR2 mRNAs were detected at 1-, 2-, 8-cell, morula and blastocyst stages whereas FGFR3 and FGFR4 mRNAs were detected after the 8-cell stage but not earlier. The abundance of FGFR1, FGFR3, and FGFR4 mRNAs increased at the morula and blastocyst stages. Immunofluorescence microscopy detected FGFR2 and FGFR4 exclusively in trophoblast cells whereas FGFR1 and FGFR3 were detected in both trophoblast cells and inner cell mass in blastocysts. Neither transcripts for FGF10 nor its receptor (FGFR2b) were temporally related to interferon τ (IFNT) transcript profile during peri- and postimplantation bovine conceptus development. A series of studies used a chemical inhibitor of FGFR kinase function (PD173074) to examine FGFR activation requirements during bovine embryo development. Exposing embryos to the inhibitor (1 μM) beginning on day 5 post-fertilization did not alter the percentage of embryos that developed into blastocysts or blastocyst cell numbers. The inhibitor did not alter the abundance of CDX2 mRNA but decreased (P<0.05) the relative abundance of IFNT mRNA in blastocysts. Exposing blastocysts to the inhibitor from days 8 to 11 post-fertilization reduced (P<0.05) the percentage of blastocysts that formed outgrowths after transfer to Matrigel-coated plates. In conclusion, each FGFR was detected in bovine embryos, and FGFR activation is needed to maximize IFNT expression and permit outgrowth formation.

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Takashi Shimizu, Izumi Ohshima, Manabu Ozawa, Satoko Takahashi, Atsushi Tajima, Masayuki Shiota, Hitoshi Miyazaki and Yukio Kanai

Heat stress inhibits ovarian follicular development in mammalian species. We hypothesized that heat stress inhibits the function of follicular granulosa cells and suppresses follicular development. To test this, immature female rats were injected with pregnant mare serum gonadotropin (PMSG) at 48 h after the start of temperature treatment (control: 25 °C, 50% RH; heat stress: 35 °C, 70% Relative Humidity). The ovaries and granulosa cells of follicles at different developmental stages were analyzed for gonadotropin receptor levels and aromatase activity; estradiol levels were measured in follicular fluid. Before injection, heat stress diminished only the amount of FSH receptor on granulosa cells of antral follicles. During PMSG-stimulated follicular development, heat stress strongly inhibited gonadotropin receptor levels and aromatase activity in granulosa cells, and estradiol levels in the follicular fluid of early antral, antral and preovulatory follicles. To examine apoptosis and mRNA levels of bcl-2 and bax in granulosa cells, follicles harvested 48 h after PMSG injection were cultured in serum-free conditions. Heat-stressed granulosa cells showed a time-dependent increase in apoptosis. The bcl-2 mRNA levels were similar in control and heat-stressed granulosa cells; bax mRNA levels were increased in heat-stressed granulosa cells. According to these results, heat stress inhibits expression of gonadotropin receptors in granulosa cells and attenuates estrogenic activity of growing follicles, granulosa cells of heat-stressed follicles are susceptible to apoptosis, and the bcl2/bax system is not associated with heat-stress-induced apoptosis of granulosa cells. Our study suggests that decreased numbers and function of granulosa cells may cause ovarian dysfunction in domestic animals in summer.

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Hiroyuki Kaneko, Kazuhiro Kikuchi, Junko Noguchi, Manabu Ozawa, Katsuhiko Ohnuma, Naoki Maedomari and Naomi Kashiwazaki

Our objective was to improve the developmental ability of oocytes in porcine primordial follicles xenografted to nude mice, by treating the host mice with gonadotrophins to accelerate follicular growth. Ovarian tissues from 20-day-old piglets, in which most of the follicles were primordial, were transplanted under the kidney capsules of ovariectomized nude mice. Gonadotrophin treatments were commenced around 60 days after vaginal cornification in the mice. Ovarian grafts were obtained 2 or 3 days after treatment with equine chorionic gonadotrophin (eCG-2 and eCG-3 groups), after porcine FSH infusion for 7 or 14 days, or after infusion of porcine FSH for 14 days with a single injection of estradiol antiserum (FSH-7, FSH-14 and FSH-14EA groups, respectively). Gonadotrophin treatments accelerated follicular growth within the xenografts compared with that in control mice given no gonadotrophins, consistent with higher (P < 0.05) circulating inhibin levels in the gonadotrophin-treated mice. In contrast, circulating mouse FSH levels were significantly (P < 0.05) depressed. We recovered large numbers of full-sized oocytes with meiotic competence to the mature stage from the eCG-3, FSH-7, and FSH-14EA, unlike in the control group. Moreover, 56% of matured oocytes with the first polar body (n = 39) were fertilized in vitro in the FSH-14EA group. After in vitro fertilization and subsequent culture for 7 days, one blastocyst was obtained from each of the eCG-3, FSH-7 and, FSH-14EA groups, whereas no blastocysts appeared in the other groups. Exogenous gonadotrophins –not mouse FSH – stimulated the growing follicles that had developed from the primordial follicles in the xenografts: the effects were incomplete but improved to some extent the meiotic and developmental abilities of the oocytes.

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Paula Tribulo, James I Moss, Manabu Ozawa, Zongliang Jiang, Xiuchun (Cindy) Tian and Peter J Hansen

The bovine was used to examine the potential for WNT signaling to affect the preimplantation embryo. Expression of seven key genes involved in canonical WNT signaling declined to a nadir at the morula or blastocyst stage. Expression of 80 genes associated with WNT signaling in the morula and inner cell mass (ICM) and trophectoderm (TE) of the blastocyst was also evaluated. Many genes associated with WNT signaling were characterized by low transcript abundance. Seven genes were different between ICM and TE, and all of them were overexpressed in TE as compared to ICM, including WNT6, FZD1, FZD7, LRP6, PORCN, APC and SFRP1. Immunoreactive CTNNB1 was localized primarily to the plasma membrane at all stages examined from the 2-cell to blastocyst stages of development. Strikingly, neither CTNNB1 nor non-phospho (i.e., active) CTNNB1 was observed in the nucleus of blastomeres at any stage of development even after the addition of WNT activators to culture. In contrast, CTNNB1 associated with the plasma membrane was increased by activators of WNT signaling. The planar cell polarity pathway (PCP) could be activated in the embryo as indicated by an experiment demonstrating an increase in phospho-JNK in the nucleus of blastocysts treated with the non-canonical WNT11. Furthermore, WNT11 improved development to the blastocyst stage. In conclusion, canonical WNT signaling is attenuated in the preimplantation bovine embryo but WNT can activate the PCP component JNK. Thus, regulation of embryonic development by WNT is likely to involve activation of pathways independent of nuclear actions of CTNNB1.

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Natsumi Sakamoto, Manabu Ozawa, Kaori Yokotani-Tomita, Aki Morimoto, Takaya Matsuzuka, Daichi Ijiri, Miho Hirabayashi, Atsuko Ushitani and Yukio Kanai

Maternal hyperthermia induces pre-implantation embryo death, which is accompanied by enhanced physiological oxidative stress. We evaluated whether the administration of dl-α-tocopherol acetate (TA) to hyperthermic mothers mitigated pre-implantation embryo death. Mice were exposed to heat stress (35 °C, 60% relative humidity) for 12 h or not heated (25 °C) on the day of mating. Twelve hours before the beginning of temperature treatment, TA was injected intraperitoneally at a dose of 1 g/kg body weight. After the treatment, zygotes were recovered and the developmental abilities and intracellular glutathione (GSH) levels were evaluated. Another set of mice, with or without TA treatment, was exposed to heat stress for 12, 24 and 36 h, and the urinary levels of the oxidative stress marker 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) were measured. Heat stress significantly decreased the blastocyst development rate and the GSH content in zygotes, as compared with the non-heat-stressed embryos, while TA administration significantly mitigated the deleterious effects of heat stress with regard to both parameters. Moreover, although the urinary levels of 8-OHdG gradually increased according to the duration of heat exposure, with or without TA administration, the levels were lower in the TA-administered group than in the placebo-injected mice. These results suggest that heat stress enhances physiological oxidative stress, and that TA administration alleviates the hyperthermia-induced death of pre-implantation embryos by reducing physiological oxidative stress.

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Michiko Nakai, Hiroyuki Kaneko, Tamas Somfai, Naoki Maedomari, Manabu Ozawa, Junko Noguchi, Junya Ito, Naomi Kashiwazaki and Kazuhiro Kikuchi

Xenografting of testicular tissue into immunodeficient mice is known to be a valuable tool for facilitating the development of immature germ cells present in mammalian gonads. Spermatogenesis in xenografts and/or in vitro embryonic development to the blastocyst stage after ICSI of xenogeneic sperm has already been reported in large animals, including pigs; however, development of the embryos to term has not yet been confirmed. Therefore, in pigs, we evaluated the in vivo developmental ability of oocytes injected after ICSI of xenogeneic sperm. Testicular tissues prepared from neonatal piglets, which contain seminiferous cords consisting of only gonocytes/spermatogonia, were transplanted under the back skin of castrated nude mice. Between 133 and 280 days after xenografting, morphologically normal sperm were recovered, and a single spermatozoon was then injected into an in vitro matured porcine oocyte. After ICSI, the oocytes were electrostimulated and transferred into estrus-synchronized recipients. Two out of 23 recipient gilts gave birth to six piglets. Here, we describe for the first time that oocytes fertilized with a sperm from ectopic xenografts have the ability to develop to viable offspring in large mammals.

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Michiko Nakai, Naomi Kashiwazaki, Akiko Takizawa, Naoki Maedomari, Manabu Ozawa, Junko Noguchi, Hiroyuki Kaneko, Masao Shino and Kazuhiro Kikuchi

In pigs, failure of sperm nuclear decondensation has been reported after injection into oocytes. We examined the effects of pretreating sperm heads with Triton X-100 (TX-100) and dithiothreitol (DTT) and of electrical stimulation of oocytes after sperm head injection on time-dependent morphologic changes in sperm nuclei and in vitro development to the blastocyst stage. In experiment 1, spermatozoa were pretreated with 1% TX-100 and 5 mM DTT (T + D) or not treated, and then injected into in vitro matured oocytes. Electrical stimulation (1.5 kV/cm, 20 μs DC pulse) was applied to the oocytes 1 h after injection (stimulated group) or was not applied (unstimulated group). Some of the oocytes in each group were evaluated at hourly intervals until 10 h after injection for morphologic changes in the sperm nuclei. Unstimulated oocytes injected with untreated spermatozoa showed a delayed peak in the rate of nuclear decondensation (39.4–44.1%, 3–6 h after injection) compared with oocytes injected with T + D-treated spermatozoa (57.0% and 52.6%, 1 and 2 h, respectively). The rate of male pronucleus formation peaked 6 h after stimulation (by 40–60%) after injected oocytes had been stimulated with an electrical pulse, irrespective of whether or not the spermatozoa had been pretreated. In unstimulated oocytes, the rate of male pronucleus formation did not increase and stayed at the basal level (less than 20%) throughout the culture period, regardless of the sperm treatment. Thus, T + D treatment of spermatozoa did not affect completion of fertilization. In experiment 2, we evaluated the effects of electrical stimulation and sperm treatment with T + D on the rate of blastocyst formation and the mean number of cells per blastocyst. Oocytes stimulated after injection with either T + D-treated or untreated spermatozoa showed significantly higher percentages of blastocyst formation (24.8% and 27.1% respectively) than did unstimulated oocytes (1.1% and 4.1% for T + D-treated and untreated respectively; P < 0.01 by Duncan’s multiple-range test). The rate of blastocyst formation did not differ between the T + D-treated and untreated groups. The mean number of cells per blastocyst did not differ among any of the groups (14.0–29.4 cells). These results suggest that pretreatment of sperm with TX-100 and DTT shifted the timing of sperm nuclear decondensation forward. However, pronucleus formation and development to the blastocyst stage in vitro were not improved by sperm treatment. Thus, electrical stimulation of injected oocytes enhances in vitro development to the blastocyst stage in pigs.

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Tamás Somfai, Manabu Ozawa, Junko Noguchi, Hiroyuki Kaneko, Katsuhiko Ohnuma, Ni Wayan Kurniani Karja, Mokhamad Fahrudin, Naoki Maedomari, András Dinnyés, Takashi Nagai and Kazuhiro Kikuchi

We investigated nuclear progression and in vitro embryonic development after parthenogenetic activation of porcine oocytes exposed to cytochalasin B (CB) during in vitro maturation (IVM). Nuclear progression was similar in control oocytes and oocytes matured in the presence of 1 μg/ml CB (IVM-CB group) by 37 h IVM; at this time the proportion of oocytes that had reached or passed through the anaphase-I stage did not differ significantly between the IVM-CB and the control groups (61.3 and 69.9% respectively; P < 0.05). After IVM for 37 h, no polar body extrusion was observed in the IVM-CB group. In these oocytes, the two lumps of homologous chromosomes remained in the ooplasm after their segregation and turned into two irregular sets of condensed chromosomes. By 41 h IVM, the double sets of chromosomes had reunited in 89.5% IVM-CB oocytes and formed a single large metaphase plate, whereas 68.8% of the control oocytes had reached the metaphase-II stage by this time. When IVM-CB oocytes cultured for 46 h were stimulated with an electrical pulse and subsequently cultured for 8 h without CB, 39.0% of them extruded a polar body and 82.9% of them had a female pronucleus. Chromosome analysis revealed that the majority of oocytes that extruded a polar body were diploid in both the control and the IVM-CB groups. However, the incidence of polyploidy in the IVM-CB group was higher than that in the control group (P < 0.05). In vitro development of diploid parthenotes in the control and the IVM-CB groups was similar in terms of blastocyst formation rates (45.8 and 42.8% respectively), number of blastomeres (39.9 and 44.4 respectively), the percentage of dead cells (4.3 and 2.9% respectively), and the frequency of apoptotic cells (7.3 and 6.3% respectively). Tetraploid embryos had a lower blastocyst formation rate (25.5%) and number of cells (26.2); however, the proportion of apoptotic nuclei (7.0%) was similar to that in diploid parthenotes. These results suggest that the proportion of homozygous and heterozygous genes does not affect in vitro embryo development to the blastocyst stage.