Summary. Pig oocytes were matured in vitro in a modified M-199 medium for 44 h, subjected to electrical stimulation and scored for activation 6 h later. Sham pulsed oocytes, exposed to electroporation medium and an a.c. field, did not develop the female pronucleus any more frequently than occurs spontaneously (8·3% within 50 h of culture). However, a single d.c. pulse proved extremely efficient in activating pig oocytes. Pulses of 0·75–1·65 kV cm−1 lasting 30 or 100 μs activated at least 90% of matured oocytes. The developmental pathway taken by the activated oocytes depended on the parameters of the pulse. The lowest effective stimulation (0·45 and 0·60 kV cm−1 for 30 μs) frequently produced oocytes that remained in pre–pronuclear stages of activation (29·4 and 42·3%, respectively). Extrusion of the second polar body and creation of one pronucleus was the most frequent type of activation (in up to 88·2% among the activated oocytes). The strongest stimulations used (1·05–1·65 kV cm−1 for 100 μs) often yielded oocytes that failed to extrude the second polar body and formed two or more pronuclei (up to 56·3%). Under optimal stimulation (0·75 kV cm−1), the activated oocytes proceed synchronously to interphase of the first mitotic division. Anaphase II is reached within 30 min and telophase II at 1 h after application of the pulse. The second polar body is extruded about 2 h after activation. Well-defined swelling pronuclei were found in oocytes 5–6 h after activation. The relationship between the stage of oocyte maturation and susceptibility to activation was investigated. The period of culture in which the oocytes develop the activation competence (32–36 h of culture) overlapped with the period in which the oocytes complete meiosis (28–38 h). This suggests that ageing in meiotic arrest is not essential for pig oocytes to become activated by electric pulses. Activation of pig oocytes was accompanied by release of cortical granules. In sections of control (metaphase II) oocytes, an average of 7·3 intact cortical granules per 10 μm of overlying cytoplasmic membrane was found. This number dropped to 1·5 in 10 μm within 30 min after the pulse.
Keywords: pig; oocyte; in vitro maturation; pronucleus; cortical granules