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Roldán-Olarte Mariela, Maillo Verónica, Sánchez-Calabuig María Jesús, Beltrán-Breña Paula, Rizos Dimitrios and Gutiérrez-Adán Alfonso

This study examines the impacts of the urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) on the in vitro maturation (IVM) of bovine oocytes. Cumulus–oocyte complexes in IVM medium were treated with uPA, amiloride (an uPA inhibitor), dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) or left untreated (control group). After 24 h of IVM, oocytes were recovered for testing or were in vitro fertilized and cultured to the blastocyst stage. The factors examined in all groups were: (i) oocyte nuclear maturation (Hoëscht staining); (ii) oocyte cytoplasmic maturation (cortical granules, CGs, distribution assessed by LCA-FITC); (iii) oocyte and cumulus cell (CC) gene expression (RT-qPCR); and (iv) embryo development (cleavage rate and blastocyst yield). Oocytes subjected to uPA treatment showed rates of nuclear maturation and CG distribution patterns similar to controls (P > 0.05), whereas lower rates of oocyte maturation were recorded in the amiloride group (P < 0.05). Both in oocytes and CC, treatment with uPA did not affect the transcription of genes related to apoptosis, cell junctions, cell cycle or serpin protease inhibitors. In contrast, amiloride altered the expression of genes associated with cell junctions, cell cycle, oxidative stress and CC serpins. No differences were observed between the control and uPA group in cleavage rate or in blastocyst yield recorded on Days 7, 8 or 9 post-insemination. However, amiloride led to drastically reduced cleavage rate (28.5% vs 83.2%) and Day 9 embryo production (6.0% vs 21.0%) over the rates recorded for DMSO. These results indicate that the proteolytic activity of uPA is needed for successful oocyte maturation in bovine.

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Veronica Maillo, Maria Jesus Sánchez-Calabuig, Ricaurte Lopera-Vasquez, Meriem Hamdi, Alfonso Gutierrez-Adan, Patrick Lonergan and Dimitrios Rizos

The oviduct is a complex and organized thin tubular structure connecting the ovary with the uterus. It is the site of final sperm capacitation, oocyte fertilization and, in most species, the first 3–4days of early embryo development. The oviductal epithelium is made up of ciliary and secretory cells responsible for the secretion of proteins and other factors which contribute to the formation of the oviductal fluid. Despite significant research, most of the pathways and oviductal factors implicated in the crosstalk between gametes/early embryo and the oviduct remain unknown. Therefore, studying the oviductal environment is crucial to improve our understanding of the regulatory mechanisms controlling fertilization and embryo development. In vitro systems are a valuable tool to study in vivo pathways and mechanisms, particularly those in the oviducts which in livestock species are challenging to access. In studies of gamete and embryo interaction with the reproductive tract, oviductal epithelial cells, oviductal fluid and microvesicles co-cultured with gametes/embryos represent the most appropriate in vitro models to mimic the physiological conditions in vivo.

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Veronica Maillo, Celia de Frutos, Peadar O’Gaora, Niamh Forde, Gregory W Burns, Thomas E Spencer, Alfonso Gutierrez-Adan, Patrick Lonergan and Dimitrios Rizos

The aim of this study was to compare the transcriptome of the oviductal isthmus of pregnant heifers with that of cyclic heifers as well as to investigate spatial differences between the transcriptome of the isthmus and ampulla of the oviduct in pregnant heifers. After synchronizing crossbred beef heifers, those in standing oestrus (=Day 0) were randomly assigned to cyclic (non-bred, n=6) or pregnant (artificially inseminated, n=11) groups. They were slaughtered on Day 3 and both oviducts from each animal were isolated and cut in half to separate ampulla and isthmus. Each portion was flushed to confirm the presence of an oocyte/embryo and was then opened longitudinally and scraped to obtain epithelial cells which were snap-frozen. Oocytes and embryos were located in the isthmus of the oviduct ipsilateral to the corpus luteum. Microarray analysis of oviductal cells revealed that proximity to the corpus luteum did not affect the transcriptome of the isthmus, irrespective of pregnancy status. However, 2287 genes were differentially expressed (P<0.01) between the ampulla and isthmus of the oviduct ipsilateral to the corpus luteum in pregnant animals. Gene ontology revealed that the main biological processes overrepresented in the isthmus were synthesis of nitrogen, lipids, nucleotides, steroids and cholesterol as well as vesicle-mediated transport, cell cycle, apoptosis, endocytosis and exocytosis, whereas cell motion, motility and migration, DNA repair, calcium ion homeostasis, carbohydrate biosynthesis, and regulation of cilium movement and beat frequency were overrepresented in the ampulla. In conclusion, large differences in gene expression were observed between the isthmus and ampulla of pregnant animals at Day 3 after oestrus.

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Ricaurte Lopera-Vasquez, Meriem Hamdi, Veronica Maillo, Alfonso Gutierrez-Adan, Pablo Bermejo-Alvarez, Miguel Ángel Ramírez, María Yáñez-Mó and Dimitrios Rizos

The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of extracellular vesicles (EV) from oviductal fluid (OF), either from the ampulla or isthmus, on the development and quality of in vitro-cultured bovine embryos. Zygotes were cultured in synthetic oviduct fluid (SOF + 3 mg/mL BSA) without calf serum (C− group), in the presence of 3 × 105 EV/mL from ampullary or isthmic OF at either 1 × 104  g (10 K) or 1 × 105  g (100 K), and compared with SOF + 5% FCS (C+ group). OF-EV size and concentration were assessed by electron microscopy and nanotracking analysis system. Embryo development was recorded on Days 7–9, and blastocyst quality was assessed through cryotolerance and gene expression analysis. Lower blastocyst yield was observed on Day 7 in the C− and OF-EV groups (12.0–14.3%) compared with C+ (20.6%); however, these differences were compensated at Days 8 and 9 (Day 9: 28.5–30.8%). Importantly, the survival rate of blastocysts produced with isthmic 100 K OF-EV was higher than that of C+ and C− group at 72 h after vitrification and warming (80.1 vs 34.5 and 50.5% respectively, P < 0.05). In terms of gene expression, blastocysts produced in the presence of 100 K isthmic OF-EV upregulated the water channel AQP3 and DNMT3A and SNRPN transcripts compared with the C+, with the expression in C− being intermediate. The lipid receptor LDLR was downregulated in C+ compared with all other groups. In conclusion, the addition of oviductal fluid extracellular vesicles from isthmus, to in vitro culture of bovine embryos in the absence of serum improves the development and quality of the embryos produced.