In domestic animals of the family Bovidae, sex preselection of offspring has been demanded for convenience of milk/beef production and animal breeding. Development of the nonsurgical embryo transfer technique and sexing methods of preimplantation embryos made it possible. Sexing based on detection of Y chromosome-specific DNA sequences is considered the most reliable method to date. PCR enables amplification of a target sequence from a small number of blastomeres. However, it requires technical skill and is time consuming. Furthermore, PCR has the risk of false positives because of DNA contamination during handling of the PCR products in duplicate PCR procedures and/or electrophoresis. Therefore, for embryo sexing to become widely used in the cattle embryo transfer industry, a simple, rapid and precise sexing method needs to be developed. Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) is a novel DNA amplification method, and the reaction is carried out under isothermal conditions (range, 60 to 65 C) using DNA polymerase with strand displacement activity. When the target DNA is amplified by LAMP, a white precipitate derived from magnesium pyrophosphate (a by-product of the LAMP reaction) is observed. It is noteworthy that LAMP does not need special reagents or electrophoresis to detect the amplified DNA. This review describes the development and application of an embryo sexing method using LAMP in cattle and water buffaloes.
Most species living outside the tropical zone undergo physiological adaptations to seasonal environmental changes and changing day length (photoperiod); this phenomenon is called photoperiodism. It is well known that the circadian clock is involved in the regulation of photoperiodism such as seasonal reproduction, but the mechanism underlying circadian clock regulation of photoperiodism remains unclear. Recent molecular analysis have revealed that, in mammals and birds, the pars tuberalis (PT) of the pituitary gland acts as the relay point from light receptors, which receive information about the photoperiod, to the endocrine responses. Long-day (LD)-induced thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the PT acts as a master regulator of seasonal reproduction in the ependymal cells (ECs) within the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) and activates thyroid hormone (TH) by inducing the expression of type 2 deiodinase in both LD and short-day (SD) breeding animals. Furthermore, the circadian clock has been found to be localized in the PT and ECs as well as in the circadian pacemaker(s). This review purposes to summarize the current knowledge concerning the involvement of the neuroendocrine system and circadian clock in seasonal reproduction.
The ability to store sperm in the female genital tract is frequently observed in vertebrates as well as in invertebrates. Because of the presence of a system that maintains the ejaculated sperm alive in the female reproductive tract in a variety of animals, this strategy appears to be advantageous for animal reproduction. Although the occurrence and physiological reasons for sperm storage have been reported extensively in many species, the mechanism of sperm storage in the female reproductive tract has been poorly understood until recently. In avian species, the specialized simple tubular invaginations referred to as sperm storage tubules (SSTs) are found in the oviduct as a sperm storage organ. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of the mechanism of sperm uptake into the SSTs, maintenance within it, and controlled release of the sperm from the SSTs. Since sperm storage in avian species occurs at high body temperatures (i.e., 41 C), elucidation of the mechanism for sperm storage may lead to the development of new strategies for sperm preservation at ambient temperatures, and these could be used in a myriad of applications in the field of reproduction.
The CC (cumulus cell) proliferation index in relation to the expression and distribution of Cdk4 and Cx43 proteins, which are crucial factors for oocyte maturation, was investigated. Cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) were recovered from pubertal crossbred Landrace gilts and treated with collagenase, and separated CCs were cultured in standard TCM199 medium for 44 h. At each step of in vitro cultivation (IVC) of CCs (0, 12, 24 and 44 h), a normalized proliferation index was assessed. Cdk4 and Cx43 protein expression and the CC-specific cellular distribution were analyzed by confocal microscopic observation. The normalized proliferation index (number of cells attached, measured by impedance) was increased in the first 12 h of IVC (P<0.01) and differed between 12 h and 24 h of cultivation (P<0.001). Later, between 24 h–44 h of IVC, the CC proliferation rate was stable, and no significant differences were observed. Based on the confocal microscopic observation, increased expression of both Cdk4 and Cx43 was found after 44 h of IVC compared with the expression of these proteins before IVC. Moreover, after IVC, a substantial translocation of Cdk4 and Cx43 was noted from the nucleus to the cytoplasm of CCs. In conclusion, it was demonstrated for the first time that CCs can be cultured in vitro separately without oocytes and that the proliferation index was significantly increased in the first 12 h of IVC, which may reflect the process of ordinary cumulus cell expansion. Furthermore, the expression of both Cdk4 and Cx43 in CCs suggested that these proteins may be regarded as markers not only of proper oocyte maturation but also of CC differentiation. Translocation of these proteins into the cytoplasm of CCs after 44 h of IVC may be related to the expansion process.
Cortisol (Cr), the most important glucocorticoid (GC), is well known to suppress uterine prostaglandin F2α (PGF) production. However, the details of the regulatory mechanisms controlling the cyclic changes in endometrial PGF production remain unclear. Here we investigated the expression of the GC receptor (GC-Rα), the actions of cortisol throughout the estrous cycle and the regulatory mechanism of GC-Rα in the bovine endometrium. The levels of GC-Rα protein were greater at the mid-luteal stage (Days 8–12) than at the other stages. Cr more strongly suppressed PGF production at the mid-luteal stage than at the follicular stage. GC-Rα expression was increased by progesterone (P4) but decreased by estradiol-17β (E2) in cultured endometrial stromal cells. The overall results suggest that ovarian steroid hormones control the cyclic changes in endometrial PGF production by regulating GC-Rα expression in bovine endometrial stromal cells.
The objective of this study was to investigate the role of the POU family transcription factor, Oct-4, in the early development of porcine embryos. We attempted Oct-4 downregulation of porcine early embryos by RNA interference, and evaluated Oct-4 suppression of developmental competencies and gene transcripts in porcine embryos. Injection of specific siRNA resulted in a distinct decrease in Oct-4 mRNA and protein expression in porcine embryos until at least the morula stage. Although the porcine embryos injected with Oct-4 siRNA were able to develop to the morula stage, these embryos failed to form blastocysts. Gene transcripts of caudal-like transcription factor (Cdx2) and fibroblast growth factor 4 (Fgf4), which were involved in segregation of the trophectderm and functionalization of the inner cell mass, were unchanged by Oct-4 siRNA injection. Our results indicated that Oct-4 is an important factor for porcine embryos and, in particular, for the regulation of porcine blastocyst formation.
The raccoon (Procyon lotor), indigenous to North America, has naturalized in Japan as an invasive alien species, having been introduced into the country in the 1970s. In Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, feral raccoons have been increasing in number and spreading throughout the island. The age at the onset of puberty for raccoons is important for estimating individual lifetime reproductive success and population growth. The present study investigated the timing of and potential factors affecting the onset of puberty in male raccoons in Hokkaido. External characteristics and histology of testes were studied in 151 male feral raccoons and in 1 captive juvenile. For the majority of feral yearling raccoons, prepubertal development began in May, and spermatozoa production began in October prior to their second mating season. However, some larger juveniles attained puberty during the juvenile period. The captive juvenile, which was fed throughout the winter, attained puberty only 11 months after birth. These results suggest that if male raccoons can achieve enough body growth before the first mating season, puberty can be attained early. In both juveniles and yearlings, spermatozoa production was only observed after autumn. This timing coincided with the recrudescence of seasonally active spermatogenesis in adult males. Therefore, attaining puberty in male raccoons appears to require both adequate body nutrient development and several environmental factors that control seasonal testicular changes.
A single radial immunodiffusion (SRID) assay and a chemiluminescent immunoassay (CLIA) were initially developed for alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) of the striped dolphin. Utilizing these developed assays, we investigated pregnancy-associated changes in the levels of AFP in the sera of fetuses and pregnant females of three dolphin species; samples were either collected from captive individuals or obtained as fishery by-products. The concentrations of AFP in the fetal serum ranged from 419.0 to 2026.3 μg/ml in the striped dolphin, 12.6 to 1218.7 μg/ml (for an AFP equivalent; eqAFP) in the common bottlenose dolphin and 770.6 to 3129.1 μg eqAFP/ml in the Risso’s dolphin. AFP levels decreased with increased fetal size in fetuses over 20 cm in length. The concentrations of AFP in sera of pregnant females ranged from 7.18 to 8068.7 ng/ml in the striped dolphin, 6.6 to 1241.1 ng eqAFP/ml in the common bottlenose dolphin and 3.4 to 2868.7 ng eqAFP/ml in the Risso’s dolphin. The levels in most pregnant females were equal to or lower than those found in males and nonpregnant individuals, although a few pregnant females exhibited extremely high levels (in the range of hundreds to thousands of nanograms per milliliter). Such high levels of AFP were not observed during pseudopregnancy. To our knowledge, this is the first report on basal profiles for serum AFP levels in small odontocetes. The profiles indicated that AFP may play a significant role during embryonic development, although maternal levels do not appear to be a diagnostic biomarker for monitoring pregnancy.
Our aim was to optimize a cryoprotectant treatment for vitrification of immature porcine cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs). Immature COCs were vitrified either in 35% ethylene glycol (EG), 35% propylene glycol (PG) or a combination of 17.5% EG and 17.5% PG. After warming, the COCs were in vitro matured (IVM), and surviving oocytes were in vitro fertilized (IVF) and cultured. The mean survival rate of vitrified oocytes in 35% PG (73.9%) was higher (P<0.05) than that in 35% EG (27.8%). Oocyte maturation rates did not differ among vitrified and non-vitrified control groups. Blastocyst formation in the vitrified EG group (10.8%) was higher (P<0.05) than that in the vitrified PG group (2.0%) but was lower than that in the control group (25.0%). Treatment of oocytes with 35% of each cryoprotectant without vitrification revealed a higher toxicity of PG on subsequent blastocyst development compared with EG. The combination of EG and PG resulted in 42.6% survival after vitrification. The maturation and fertilization rates of the surviving oocytes were similar in the vitrified, control and toxicity control (TC; treated with EG+PG combination without cooling) groups. Blastocyst development in the vitrified group was lower (P<0.05) than that in the control and TC groups, which in turn had similar development rates (10.7%, 18.1% and 23.3%, respectively). In conclusion, 35% PG enabled a higher oocyte survival rate after vitrification compared with 35% EG. However, PG was greatly toxic to oocytes. The combination of 17.5% EG and 17.5% PG yielded reasonable survival rates without toxic effects on embryo development.
In porcine oocytes, the function of the zona pellucida (ZP) with regard to sperm penetration or prevention of polyspermy is not well understood. In the present study, we investigated the effects of the ZP on sperm penetration during in vitro fertilization (IVF). We collected in vitro-matured oocytes with a first polar body (ZP+ oocytes). Some of them were freed from the ZP (ZP− oocytes) by two treatments (pronase and mechanical pipetting), and the effects of these treatments on sperm penetration parameters (sperm penetration rate and numbers of penetrated sperm per oocyte) were evaluated. There was no evident difference in the parameters between the two groups. Secondly, we compared the sperm penetration parameters of ZP+ and ZP− oocytes using frozen-thawed epididymal spermatozoa from four boars. Sperm penetration into ZP+ oocytes was found to be accelerated relative to ZP− oocytes. Thirdly, we evaluated the sperm penetration of ZP+ and ZP− oocytes at 1−10 h after IVF (3 h gamete co-incubation). The proportions of oocytes penetrated by sperm increased significantly with time in both groups; however, the number of penetrated sperm per oocyte did not increase in ZP− oocytes. Finally, we performed IVF using ZP− oocytes divided into control (3 h) and prolonged gamete co-incubation (5 h) groups. Greater numbers of sperm penetrated in the 5 h group than in the control group. These results suggest that the ZP and oolemma are not competent factors for prevention of polyspermy in our present porcine IVF system. However, it appears that ZP removal is one of the possibilities for reducing polyspermic penetration in vitro in pigs.
This study was designed to test the treatment with prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) plus equine chorionic gonadotrophin (eCG) and GnRH 48 h later (PEG protocol) followed by fixed-time AI (FTAI) in dairy cows with silent ovulation (cows with a mature corpus luteum and no signs of estrus detected in the preceding 21 days). In Experiment I, ovulation following the PEG protocol monitored in 24 cows with silent ovulation was recorded in 83% of the cows 36 h after GnRH treatment. In Experiment II, control cows were artificially inseminated during spontaneous estrus (4615 AI), while cows in the PEG group (1266 AI) were subjected to FTAI 24 h after GnRH treatment. Binary logistic regression revealed a significant effect of the interactions of treatment by season, by parity or by repeat breeding syndrome (>3 AI) on the conception rate. The conception rate was negatively affected by the warm season and age in controls but not in treated cows, whereas repeat breeder cows in the control and PEG groups were less (by a factor of 0.7) or more (by a factor of 1.5) likely to become pregnant, respectively, than the remaining animals. Moreover, the likelihood of twin pregnancy was lower in multiparous PEG (by a factor of 0.4) cows than in the remaining cows. This protocol, besides overcoming the negative effects of heat stress and age on the conception rate, increased fertility in repeat breeder cows compared with spontaneous estrus. Moreover, this treatment regimen reduced the twin pregnancy rate in multiparous cows.
Reproductive functions decline with the onset of diabetes in female mice. Diabetic mice have smaller uteri with an underdeveloped endometrium, suggesting diminished estrogen-induced growth. We aimed to clarify the changes in the estrous cycle and in insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) expression in the uteri of streptozotocin (STZ)-treated diabetic mice, because IGF1 is one of the main growth factors involved in estrogen-induced uterine growth. ICR female mice were intraperitoneally administered STZ (10 mg/100 g BW), and blood glucose levels were determined. Mice with blood glucose levels > 200 mg/dl were classified as diabetic mice. The onset of diabetes was associated with acyclic estrous cycles. Diabetes was also induced with STZ in ovariectomized mice. Uterine Igf1 mRNA levels were reduced in ovariectomized STZ-treated diabetic mice. Estrogen is known to stimulate Igf1 mRNA expression in the uterus, but estrogen action was abolished in the uteri of STZ-treated diabetic mice. mRNA expressions of estrogen receptor α (ERα) and steroid hormone receptor coactivators (SRC-1/Ncoa1, SRC-2/Ncoa2, SRC-3/Ncoa3 and CBP/p300/Crebbp) were reduced in the uteri of ovariectomized STZ-treated diabetic mice. The present study demonstrates that diabetes induces a decline in female reproductive functions in mice. Igf1 expression in ovariectomized diabetic female mice was decreased, and decreased responsiveness to estrogen in the uteri of diabetic mice is probably associated with a reduction in ERα and steroid receptor coactivator mRNA expression.
Localization patterns of lipid droplets in the cytoplasm of porcine oocytes were evaluated as a novel marker for in vitro maturation (IVM) of oocytes with high developmental competence. Porcine oocytes were cultured in TCM-199, which is a complete synthetic medium, for 44 h at 38.5 C. Localization patterns were divided into 2 classes: lipid droplets localized uniformly in the whole cytoplasm (class I) and those that were centrally located (class II). After IVM in TCM-199, 60% of matured oocytes exhibited the class II pattern. To investigate the relation between the distribution of lipid droplets and the developmental rate of the oocyte, the developmental rates of class I and class II oocytes were compared after in vitro fertilization (IVF). Class II oocytes showed a significantly higher rate of blastocyst development than class I oocytes. These results suggest that porcine oocytes with high developmental competence can be selected based on the localization patterns of lipid droplets.
Daily transrectal ultrasonography was carried out in eight 4–5-month-old Polish Large White × Polish Landrace gilts for 42 days to monitor the growth of individual ovarian antral follicles ≥2 mm in diameter. In total, 52.4 ± 16.2 and 123.0 ± 6.7 follicles per gilt (mean ± SD) that grew to ≥4 mm were identified during the first and second 21-day study periods, respectively (P<0.01). Four follicular waves (defined as the synchronous growth of a group of follicles from 2–3 mm to ≥4 mm) emerged during the first period, and five waves emerged during the second period. The maximum diameters attained by the largest follicles of waves were 5.7 ± 0.6 and 7.0 ± 0.5 mm (first and second periods, respectively; P<0.01). The present results provide direct evidence for the rhythmic, wave-like pattern of antral follicle recruitment in prepubertal gilts. The number of follicles and maximum diameter they attain increase significantly during the expected activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-ovarian axis in prepubescent gilts.