Pig oocytes and embryos differ from those of other species in having a large quantity of endogenous lipid, a potential role for which has yet to be identified. In the present study, the hypothesis that endogenous triglyceride acts as a metabolic substrate during in vitro maturation and early embryo development was tested. Embryos were produced by in vitro fertilization (IVF) of in vitro-matured, abattoir-derived immature oocytes, cultured in medium NCSU23 up to the blastocyst stage. The triglyceride content of single oocytes and embryos was measured throughout development. Oxygen and glucose consumption and the formation of lactate were measured non-invasively over the same period, enabling total ATP production to be calculated. The triglyceride content of oocytes before maturation (135+/-4.9 ng) decreased by 13 ng (P<0.05) during in vitro maturation, but there was no apparent change in triglyceride content during embryo development (117.68 ng). Oxygen consumption was low throughout embryo cleavage before reaching a peak at the blastocyst stage (P<0.01), a pattern similar to that seen in other mammals studied. Glucose consumption and lactate production were also at a maximum at the blastocyst stage (P<0.05). These data indicate that pig oocytes may use endogenous triglyceride as an energy source during in vitro maturation and that most (91-97%) of the ATP produced during embryo development comes from oxidative phosphorylation. The high exogenous glucose concentration in NCSU23 (5.5 mmol l(-1)) may be needed to form pyruvate, which in turn, produces oxaloacetate, which is required to prime the tricarboxylic acid cycle. However, the reason for the high lipid content in early pig embryos remains to be elucidated.
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