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T Kimura, K Ogita, C Kusui, K Ohashi, C Azuma, and Y Murata

Many molecules, including steroid and peptide hormones, prostaglandins and cytokines, regulate the preparation, initiation and progression of parturition in mammals. Gene targeting studies show that, in the knockout mice of steroid 5alpha-reductase type 1 gene, prostaglandin F2alpha receptor gene and cytosolic phospholipase A2 gene, parturition was severely disturbed, although live offspring were delivered by Caesarean section. Relaxin gene-disrupted mice also showed protracted labour. However, most knockout mice in which the steroid hormone, prostaglandin, cytokine or peptide hormone (for example, oxytocin, corticotrophin releasing hormone and endothelin) endocrine-paracrine systems are disrupted are inadequate for analysis of the mechanism of parturition because they die before reaching reproductive age or are infertile, or because they reproduce normally. A conditional knockout strategy, for example, using the Cre-LoxP system, should be considered for investigating the biochemical background of parturition to overcome these problems.

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T. Nakazawa, K. Ohashi, M. Yamada, S. Shinoda, F. Saji, Y. Murata, and H. Araki

As a model for establishing an optimized medium for human in vitro fertilization (IVF), modified human tubal fluid (HTF) media containing amino acids at concentrations found in human serum and follicular fluid were prepared, and the effect of the media on development of random-bred (ICR) and F1 hybrid (CBF1) mice embryos was studied. The total concentrations of amino acids found in serum and follicular fluid were about one-third to one-half the concentrations present in two conventional media used in human IVF: Ham's F-10 and Eagle's minimal essential medium (MEM). When ICR mouse embryos were cultured in the HTF medium containing 21 amino acids at concentrations found in follicular fluid, the number of embryos developing to morulae at 72 h and to blastocysts at 96 h increased in comparison with those cultured in HTF medium. When HTF containing amino acids at concentrations found in serum was used, only induced morula formation at 72 h was enhanced. The number of hatching blastocysts at 96 h also increased when CBF1 mouse embryos were cultured with HTF supplemented with amino acids at concentrations found in follicular fluid. When ICR mouse embryos were cultured in modified HTF media containing concentrations of amino acids found in Ham's F-10 and MEM that contained higher concentrations of glutamine, embryo development was inhibited. The amount of ammonium produced during incubation for 3 days was significantly less when embryos were cultured in media containing concentrations of amino acids found in follicular fluid compared with when Ham's F-10 or MEM was the culture medium. Ammonium is produced by the breakdown of glutamine in the culture medium during incubation with or without embryos. These results suggest that the concentrations of amino acids found in follicular fluid are more effective and safer for embryo culture than those in other media currently in use.