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T Azuma, T Kondo, S Ikeda, H Imai and M Yamada

EDTA saturated with Ca(2+), Fe(3+) or Cu(2+) can induce parthenogenetic activation of pig oocytes at the germinal vesicle stage, whereas EDTA saturated with Zn(2+), which is unable to chelate Zn(2+), does not, indicating that chelation of Zn(2+) with EDTA saturated with Ca(2+) (Ca-EDTA) in maturing pig oocytes plays a pivotal role in the induction of parthenogenetic activation of oocytes. In the present study, the involvement of Zn(2+) chelation in the induction of parthenogenetic activation of pig oocytes at the germinal vesicle stage was confirmed first by examining the effects of concomitant addition of Zn(2+), Cu(2+) or Ni(2+) at various concentrations together with 1 mmol Ca-EDTA l(-1) to the maturation medium. The titration experiments revealed that the pronuclear formation induced by 1 mmol Ca-EDTA l(-1) was completely inhibited by the addition of > 30 micromol Zn(2+) l(-1) to the medium, but not by the addition of Cu(2+) and Ni(2+) at any concentration examined. Second, bovine and mouse oocytes at the germinal vesicle stage were cultured in medium with or without 1 mmol Ca-EDTA l(-1) for 48 h to examine the effects of Ca-EDTA treatment on these oocytes during maturation culture. Most (70-86%) of the bovine oocytes that underwent germinal vesicle breakdown matured to the MII stage via the MI phase, regardless of whether Ca-EDTA was present for the first 24 h of culture. However, 61% of oocytes that had been cultured with Ca-EDTA for 48 h formed a pronucleus without a second polar body, whereas oocytes cultured in the absence of Ca-EDTA were not observed to form a pronucleus at any time during culture. However, even when mouse oocytes at the germinal vesicle stage were cultured for up to 48 h in maturation medium containing Ca-EDTA, pronuclear formation was not observed. Finally, when bovine oocytes that had been cultured with 1 mmol Ca-EDTA l(-1) for 48 h from the germinal vesicle stage were cultured further in medium without Ca-EDTA that was supplemented with 5% fetal calf serum, only 26% of the oocytes developed to the cleaved stage, and none could develop further.

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E Nakatsukasa, T Inomata, T Ikeda, M Shino and N Kashiwazaki

This study reports the development of a reliable method for cryopreservation of rat epididymal spermatozoa and the production of live young by artificial insemination using these cryopreserved spermatozoa. The motility and membrane integrity of rat spermatozoa were investigated after spermatozoa had been subjected to physical stress and frozen with various concentrations of glycerol (0, 3 and 6%) either in the presence or absence of Equex Stem as cryoprotective agents. The ability of cryopreserved spermatozoa to generate normal offspring by intrauterine insemination was also evaluated. Rat spermatozoa that had been centrifuged at 700 g for 5 min showed a significant decrease in motility compared with non-centrifuged spermatozoa. In addition, after centrifugation three times the percentage of membrane-intact spermatozoa decreased to approximately 0%. The percentage of membrane-intact spermatozoa was significantly higher (P < 0.01) in semen samples that had been frozen in medium without glycerol than in samples frozen in medium with 3% glycerol. Although the addition of 0.7% Equex Stem to medium without glycerol or with 3% glycerol did not influence rates of sperm motility after freezing and thawing, the percentage of membrane-intact spermatozoa was improved by the presence of 0.7% Equex (P < 0.05). Therefore, rat spermatozoa were handled gently to avoid physical stress and were frozen in medium containing 23% egg yolk, 8% lactose monohydrate and 0.7% Equex Stem, at pH 7.4 adjusted with 10% Tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane solution. Thirteen female rats were inseminated into the oviductal end of both uterine horns with frozen-thawed spermatozoa. Forty-one normal live offspring were obtained from nine of the inseminated females. These results indicate that frozen-thawed rat spermatozoa can generate normal offspring. To our knowledge, this procedure is the first successful production of offspring using spermatozoa cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen.

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T Matsukawa, S Ikeda, H Imai and M Yamada

The present study was undertaken to examine the effects of various transition metal ion chelators, both polyaminocarboxylates (including nitrilotriacetate (NTA), ethylenediaminediacetate (EDDA), ethyleneglycolbistetraacetate (EGTA), ethylenediaminetetraacetate (EDTA) and diethylenetriaminepentaacetate (DTPA)) and non-polyaminocarboxylates (dipicolinic acid and deferoxamine), on the development in vitro of one-cell ICR strain mouse embryos to the four-cell and blastocyst stages. The order of stability constants of polyaminocarboxylates for transition metal ions such as zinc, copper and iron is as follows: NTA < or = EDDA < EGTA < EDTA < DTPA. Addition of 10 or 100 micromol polyaminocarboxylates x l(-1) to the medium significantly enhanced the development of most one-cell embryos (66-88%) beyond the two-cell stage compared with that (< 25%) in medium without polyaminocarboxylates. Although EDDA, EDTA and DTPA at 10 micromol x l(-1) induced the development of most one-cell embryos to the four-cell stage and beyond, a higher concentration (100 micromol x l(-1)) of NTA and EGTA was required to obtain a similar result. Therefore, the ability of polyaminocarboxylates to overcome the two-cell block is not correlated with their potency to chelate transition metal ions. In contrast, the non-polyaminocarboxylates dipicolinic acid and deferoxamine, at 10 and 100 micromol x l(-1), did not have the same effect. Taken together, the results indicate that the ability of polyaminocarboxylates to overcome the two-cell block in embryo development is due to some common feature or features other than the ability to chelate transition metal ions.

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A Nishikimi, T Matsukawa, K Hoshino, S Ikeda, Y Kira, EF Sato, M Inoue and M Yamada

Changes in the activities of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) during embryonic development, and the distribution of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) isoforms were examined in unfertilized mouse oocytes at the second meiotic metaphase (MII) stage and in fertilized mouse embryos during preimplantation development. In addition, the effects of NOS inhibitors on mouse preimplantation development in vitro were investigated. The activities of NOS in MII oocytes and fertilized embryos during the preimplantation period were determined by NADPH-diaphorase staining. Although NOS activity was detected in unfertilized MII oocytes, the intensity of staining was much weaker than that of fertilized embryos at the one-cell stage. There was a decrease in NOS activity in embryos from the four-cell to the eight-cell stage; however, NOS activity increased again in embryos at the morula stage, particularly in the inner cell population. In the expanded blastocysts, staining was confined to the inner cell mass. Immuno-cytochemical staining showed that eNOS and iNOS were expressed in the cytoplasm of oocytes and embryos during the preimplantation period, and eNOS was also distributed in the nuclei of the embryos. When one-cell embryos were treated with 1 mmol N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) l(-1), their development in vitro was arrested at the two-cell stage. This inhibition of development was overcome by the addition of 1 mmol L-arginine l(-1) to the medium. These observations indicate that nitric oxide plays an important role as a diffusible regulator of cell proliferation and differentiation, especially at the developmental transition from the two-cell to the four-cell stage during preimplantation development of mice.