Freeze-drying (lyophilization) has been proposed as an alternative method for sperm preservation to overcome the disadvantages of the current cryopreservation method such as the high maintenance cost of frozen stocks, the problems associated with transportation of frozen materials and the potential risk of total loss of the frozen stock. Since freeze-dried spermatozoa after rehydration lose their motility, which is an essential requirement to complete physiological fertilization, a relatively difficult microinsemination technique must be applied to rehydrated spermatozoa. Theoretically, it has been supposed that freeze-dried spermatozoa could maintain their functions and abilities to interact with the oocyte cytoplasm after prolonged storage at refrigerator temperature. However, sufficient yield of transferable blastocysts and production of live offspring derived from freeze-dried sperm samples are still subjects to be challenged and overcome in large domestic species.
The detection of specific cellular components using fluorescent agents such as green fluorescent protein (GFP), red fluorescent protein or Hoechst dyes provides a powerful tool for studying cell biology. However, specimens must be exposed to high-intensity light, which might cause cellular damage. Here, we exposed mouse metaphase stage (M) II oocytes to fluorescent mercury vapor light at three wavelengths (539 nm, 488 nm and 341 nm) to determine the maximum exposure time that would avoid damage. When oocytes were activated parthenogenetically after exposure to these wavelengths for more than 20 min, 5 min or 4 sec, respectively, the percentages of dead oocytes after activation increased, and none of the surviving embryos developed to blastocysts. However, embryos fertilized by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) were more tolerant to light damage, even though the quality of blastocysts, judged by cell number and cell allocation to the inner cell mass and trophectoderm measured by immunostaining for Oct4 and Cdx2, was reduced as exposure times increased. Live, healthy offspring were obtained when these exposed embryos were transferred into recipient pseudopregnant females at the 2-cell stage. In addition, MII oocytes collected from GFP-expressing transgenic mice after 5 min of irradiation with 488-nm light were also able to develop to full term following ICSI. Thus, we determined the safe period of exposure to several wavelengths for oocyte manipulation or observation that would permit subsequent development.
The reproductive ability, milk-producing capacity, survival time and relationships of these parameters with telomere length were investigated in 4 groups of cows produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Each group was produced using the same donor cells (6 Holstein (1H), 3 Holstein (2H), 4 Jersey (1J) and 5 Japanese Black (1B) cows). As controls, 47 Holstein cows produced by artificial insemination were used. The SCNT cows were artificially inseminated, and multiple deliveries were performed after successive rounds of breeding and conception. No correlation was observed between the telomere length and survival time in the SCNT cows. Causes of death of SCNT cows included accidents, accident-associated infections, inappropriate management, acute mastitis and hypocalcemia. The lifetime productivity of SCNT cows was superior to those of the controls and cell donor cows. All SCNT beef cows with a relatively light burden of lactation remained alive and showed significantly prolonged survival time compared with the cows in the SCNT dairy breeds. These results suggest that the lifetime productivity of SCNT cows was favorable, and their survival time was more strongly influenced by environmental burdens, such as pregnancy, delivery, lactation and feeding management, than by the telomere length.
Manipulation of preimplantation embryos in vitro, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), in vitro culture (IVC), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and other assisted reproduction technologies (ART), has contributed to the development of infertility treatment and new animal reproduction methods. However, such embryos often exhibit abnormal DNA methylation patterns in imprinted genes and centromeric satellite repeats. These DNA methylation patterns are established and maintained by three DNA methyltransferases: Dnmt1, Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b. Dnmt3b is responsible for the creation of methylation patterns during the early stage of embryogenesis and consists of many alternative splice variants that affect methylation activity; nevertheless, the roles of these variants have not yet been identified. In this study, we found an alternatively spliced variant of Dnmt3b lacking exon 6 (Dnmt3bΔ6) that is specific to mouse IVC embryos. Dnmt3bΔ6 also showed prominent expression in embryonic stem (ES) cells derived from in vitro manipulated embryos. Interestingly, IVC blastocysts were hypomethylated in centromeric satellite repeat regions that could be susceptible to methylation by Dnmt3b. In vitro methylation activity assays showed that Dnmt3bΔ6 had lower activity than normal Dnmt3b. Our findings suggest that Dnmt3bΔ6 could induce a hypomethylation status especially in in vitro manipulated embryos.
The Sry (sex determining region on Y chromosome) gene is a master gene for sex determination. We previously reported that the Sry gene has tissue-dependent and differentially methylated regions (T-DMRs) by analyzing the DNA methylation states at CpG sites in the promoter regions. In this study, we found unique non-CpG methylation at the internal cytosine in the 5'-CCTGG-3' pentanucleotide sequence in the Sry T-DMR. This non-CpG methylation was detected in four mouse strains (ICR, BALB/c, DBA2 and C3H), but not in two strains (C57BL/6 and 129S1), suggesting that the CCTGG methylation is tentative and unstable. Interestingly, this CCTGG methylation was associated with demethylation of the CpG sites in the Sry T-DMR in the developmental process. A methylation-mediated promoter assay showed that the CCTGG methylation promotes gene expression. Our finding shows that non-CpG methylation has unique characteristic and is still conserved in mammals.
The present study was designed to extensively characterize cell lines derived from porcine blastocysts by several methodical approaches, including morphological observation, cytogenetic analysis, estimation of alkaline phosphatase activity and detection of specific marker expression at the mRNA/protein level. A comparison was made between the properties of cell lines isolated from in vivo- and in vitro-obtained blastocysts. Our results showed that 57.1% of the in vivo-obtained blastocysts attached to the feeder layer and that 33.3% of them started to grow in a monolayer. The percentage of attached in vitro-produced blastocysts was lower (24.6%), and only 6.9% of them started to grow. Outgrowths from the in vitro-produced blastocysts formed mainly trophectoderm or epithelial-like monolayer, whereas the in vivo-obtained blastocysts formed heterogeneous outgrowths that also contained cells with embryonic stem (ES)-like morphology. Detailed analyses showed that the primary outgrowths with ES-like morphology expressed the pluripotency markers OCT-4 and NANOG and revealed intensive alkaline phosphatase staining, while they did not express markers of differentiation. The majority of passaged cells, including those with ES-like morphology, lacked OCT-4 protein and revealed expression of specific differentiation markers (CYTOKERATIN 18, LAMINS A/C, TRANSFERRIN, α-FETOPROTEIN and GATA-4), although they still expressed NANOG and exhibited weak alkaline phosphatase activity. Moreover, these cells spontaneously differentiated into neural, fibroblast or epithelial-like cells, even in the presence of leukaemia inhibitory factor. Our results show that complex analysis of markers of pluripotency as well as differentiation markers is necessary for proper interpretation of data in porcine embryonic stem cell studies.
Uterine leiomyoma is the most common benign tumor in women. Although responsible gene mutations have not been found in leiomyomas, they represent a progressive disease with irreversible symptoms. To characterize epigenetic features of uterine leiomyomas, the DNA methylation status of a paired sample of leiomyoma and normal myometrium was subjected to a microarray-based DNA methylation analysis with restriction tag-mediated amplification (D-REAM). In the leiomyoma, we identified an aberrant DNA methylation status for 463 hypomethylated and 318 hypermethylated genes. Although these changes occurred on all chromosomes, aberrantly hypomethylated genes were preferentially located on the X chromosome. Using paired samples of normal myometrium and leiomyoma from 6 hysterectomy patients, methylation-sensitive quantitative real-time PCR revealed 14 shared X chromosome genes with an abnormal DNA hypomethylation status (FAM9A, CPXCR1, CXORF45, TAF1, NXF5, VBP1, GABRE, DDX53, FHL1, BRCC3, DMD, GJB1, AP1S2 and PCDH11X) and one hypermethylated locus (HDAC8). Expression of XIST, which is involved in X chromosome inactivation, was equivalent in the normal myometrium and leiomyoma, indicating that the epigenetic abnormality on the X chromosome did not result from aberration of XIST gene expression. Based on these data, a unique epigenetic signature for uterine leiomyomas has emerged. The 14 hypomethylated and one hypermethylated loci provide valuable biomarkers for understanding the molecular pathogenesis of leiomyoma.
The effect of gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogue (GnRH-A) or follicular aspiration at the onset of progesterone-based timed artificial insemination (TAI) on subsequent follicular growth and synchronization of ovulation was examined in early postpartum Japanese Black cows. A total of 40 (22 in Exp. 1 and 18 in Exp. 2) Japanese Black cows at 20-30 days postpartum were fitted with a progesterone releasing internal device (PRID) for 7 days, injected with a prostaglandin F2α analogue upon removal of the PRID and GnRH-A 48 h later, and inseminated 18 h after GnRH-A injection. In Exp. 1, the animals were divided into three groups (untreated control, GnRH-A injection or follicular aspiration) of different treatments on the first day of PRID insertion (day 0), and the synchronized ovulation rate in the follicular aspiration group (100%; 8/8) tended to be higher (P=0.077) than that in the control group (42.9%; 3/7). In Exp. 2, follicular growth in the GnRH (n=9) and follicular aspiration (n=9) groups was monitored by ultrasonography. Four out of the nine animals in the GnRH group had a corpus luteum on either day 4 or day 7 (OV group), and the other five animals had no induced ovulation (NOV group). The diameter of the ovulatory follicle on day 9 in the OV group (1.44 ± 0.11 cm) tended to be greater (P=0.078) than that in the NOV group (1.13 ± 0.07 cm). Follicular aspiration at the onset of PRID-based TAI of early postpartum Japanese Black cows, regardless of the resumption of ovarian cyclicity, tended to result in a higher rate of synchronization of ovulation than that of the untreated controls.
We have shown in pigs that oocytes denuded of cumulus cells at 24 h of in vitro maturation culture and subsequently matured for a total of 46 h (DO24 oocytes) have lower cytoplasmic maturity than those matured with cumulus cells for 46 h and then denuded (DO46 oocytes). In the present study, DO24 zona-free oocytes were fused with one (1C) or two (2C) cytoplasmic fragments produced by serial centrifugation ("centri-fusion") of DO46 oocytes (DO24+1C and DO24+2C oocytes, respectively). Groups of (1) DO46 (a control), (2) DO24, (3) DO24+1C and (4) DO24+2C oocytes were partheno-activated by an electrical pulse or fertilized in vitro and subsequently cultured for 6 days. In the fused groups, female pronucleus (FPN) formation rates were higher than that in the DO24 group after parthenogenetic activation (PA); however, the blastocyst rates were intermediate between those of the control and DO24 groups. After in vitro fertilization, the male pronucleus (MPN) formation rates in the fused groups were similar to that in the control group and higher than that in the DO24 group; the normal fertilization rate in the DO24+2C group was higher than that in the DO24 group and similar to that in the control group, resulting in significantly higher blastocyst rates in the DO24+2C and control groups than that in the DO24 group. These results suggest that centri-fusion using ooplasm from fully matured DO46 oocytes can offer a potentially novel approach for restoration of cytoplasmic maturity to oocytes with low developmental ability and subsequent improvement of fertilization and developmental competence.
Let-7b, one of the let-7 family members, was studied for its regulative role in endometrial cells during early pregnancy in mice. According to real-time RT-PCR analysis, the expression of let-7b in epithelial cells increased gradually from day 1 to day 4 of preimplantation stages and reached the highest level on day 4. On the other hand, the highest level of let-7b in stromal cells was observed on day 1, although the expression was decreased on day 2 and increased significantly on day 4. By in situ hybridization, let-7b was also found to express in uteri during days 6-8 of pregnancy. Endometrial cells isolated from prepubertal mice were treated with steroid hormones, progesterone (P4), estradiol (E2) and P4 plus E2. After 96 h of culture in the presence of steroid hormones, the expression levels of let-7b were increased in the endometrial cells, although significant differences were only observed after P4 treatment in stromal cells and after individual E2 and P4 treatments in the epithelial cells. In association with the increased let-7b expression, the cell proliferation slope, measured by a MTT assay, significantly decreased in the presence of P4 and P4 plus E2 compared with the nonhormone and E2 treatment groups during 72-108 h of culture. Furthermore, results from transfection of let-7b into stromal cells isolated from day 4 pregnant mice or prepubertal mice demonstrated that let-7b attenuated the proliferation during the periods of time examined. After transfection of let-7b into mouse stromal cells isolated from day 7 of pregnancy, the expression of Basigin (Bsg), a matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) inducer, was suppressed, as well as that of MMP-9. In conclusion, this study clarifies the expression pattern of let-7b in uterine epithelial and stromal cells during preimplantation stages in mice, as well as the inhibitory effect of let-7b associated with steroid hormones on stromal cell proliferation and on the expression of MMP-9.
Dolly, the first mammal cloned from a somatic cell, had shorter telomeres than age-matched controls and died at an early age because of disease. To investigate longevity and lifetime performance in cloned animals, we produced cloned cows with short telomeres using oviductal epithelial cells as donor cells. At 5 years of age, despite the presence of short telomeres, all cloned cows delivered multiple healthy offspring following artificial insemination with conventionally processed spermatozoa from noncloned bulls, and their milk production was comparable to that of donor cows. Moreover, this study revealed that the offspring had normal-length telomeres in their leukocytes and major organs. Thus, cloned animals have normal functional germ lines, and therefore germ line function can completely restore telomere lengths in clone gametes by telomerase activity, resulting in healthy offspring with normal-length telomeres.
The aim of the present study was to show the distribution of cows by days in milk (DIM) at first AI, effect of DIM at first AI on reproductive performance and some factors influencing DIM at first AI. A total of 767 Holstein Frisian cows that calved from January 2004 to December 2007 in 14 dairy herds were used. The first AI conception rate (FAICR) was 34.0%. Seventy-five percent of the cows were first inseminated within 100 days after calving. FAICR increased linearly up to 100 DIM. A one unit (20 days) longer DIM at first AI within the first 100 days postpartum increased the likelihood of a 2.4% FAICR. However, cows first inseminated at an earlier stage of lactation showed better reproductive performance in terms of pregnancy rate and calving to conception interval than cows first inseminated at a later stage. A one day increase in the interval from calving to first AI reduced the likelihood of 0.85 days to become pregnant. Herd or region located in southwestern Japan, tie-stall herd, first AI in spring, higher parity, uterine infection, metabolic diseases and/or mastitis and abnormal resumption of postpartum ovarian cycles contributed to delaying first AI.
Fibroblast growth factor 4 (FGF4) promotes isolation of trophoblast stem (TS) cells from mouse blastocysts and maintenance of TS cells in an undifferentiated state in vitro. To date, commercially available, bacterially expressed human FGF4 (RhFGF4) has been used generally for this purpose. In this study, HismFGF4, a 6x histidine-tagged mouse FGF4, was produced in E. coli and purified using heparin column chromatography. We demonstrated that HismFGF4 (25 ng/ml) more efficiently generates mouse TS cells from a single blastocyst than RhFGF4 (25 ng/ml) and that TS cells isolated and maintained with HismFGF4 retained their ability to differentiate into the trophoblast cell lineage in vitro. In addition, TS cells cultured with HismFGF4 (25 ng/ml) were maintained in an undifferentiated state better than with RhFGF4 (25 ng/ml). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first application of a mouse FGF4 derivative for isolation and maintenance of mouse TS cells.
The 3Rs stand for Replacement of animals in experiments, Reduction in the number of experimental animals, and Refinement of experiments to minimize animal pain and stress. We propose to address Reduction and Refinement in the use of mice as experimental models in developmental research. This study focuses on the maternal percentage of weight increase at gestational day 8 (%WIGD8) to diagnose pregnancy early in BALB/c mice. We documented sensitivity, specificity, false positive and negative rates and probability of pregnancy associated with %WIGD8. This predictive model of pregnancy allows for significant reduction in the number of mice to be sacrificed in developmental research. Reported observations and literature suggest that this model is independent of litter size and should be applicable to other mice strains. This procedure allows mice pregnancy detection before midgestation and proposes an ethically sound approach to experimental animal use by optimizing the number of mice used and refining animal manipulation.
Mice have become more important as genetically-modified model animals for analysis of physiological functions. The establishment of a frequent blood sampling system in conscious mice would provide a powerful tool for a better and more detailed understanding of the physiological status of circulating hormonal changes, such as pulse or surge modes of luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion. Frequent blood sampling, however, is considered problematic in mice because of the limited blood volume for their small body size. The present study, therefore, aims to establish a blood sampling protocol to determine the pulse and surge modes of LH secretion using intra-atrial cannulation and frequent blood sampling in free-moving conscious mice. Ovariectomized mice were bled every 3 min for 1.5 h to detect LH pulses. Blood glucose levels, an indicator of stress, were kept constant throughout the 1.5-h sampling period, suggesting that sampling can be performed under stress-free conditions. Obvious LH pulses were observed in ad lib-fed ovariectomized mice, whereas they were significantly suppressed after a 24-h fast. This indicates that the present sampling protocol is suitable for detecting physiological changes in pulsatile LH secretion. In addition, 1-h-interval blood collections in proestrous mice between 1300 and 2200 h revealed that individual preovulatory LH surges occur in the evening of proestrous days. Thus, the present study has developed a blood sampling protocol to detect individual profiles of pulse and surge modes of LH secretion in mice.