Since the discovery of interferon-tau (IFNT) over 30 years ago as the trophectodermal cytokine responsible for the maintenance of the maternal corpus luteum (CL) in ruminants, exhaustive studies have been conducted to identify genes and gene products related to CL maintenance. Recent studies have provided evidence that although CL maintenance, with the up- and down-regulation of IFNT, is important, its regulatory role in the endometrial expression of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) is far more important for conditioning the uterine environment for successful conceptus implantation and thereafter. This review initially describes the mammalian implantation process, briefly but focuses on recent findings, as there appears to be a common phenomenon during early to mid-pregnancy among mammalian species.
Genetically engineered animals can be produced quickly using genome editing technology. A new electroporation technique, technique for animal knockout system by electroporation (TAKE), aids in the production of genome-edited animals by introducing nucleases into intact embryos using electroporation instead of microinjection. It is difficult to confirm nuclease delivery into embryos after electroporation using the conventional TAKE method. We previously reported the successful visualization of fluorescently-labeled tracrRNA in embryos after electroporation Cas9 paired with the crRNA:tracrRNA-ATTO550 duplex. However, the amount of fluorescence signal from labeled tracrRNA in embryos did not correlate with the genome editing rate of the offspring. This study examined the visualization of Cas9 protein in embryos after electroporation and its correlation with the genome editing rate of the offspring using a fluorescent Cas9 fusion protein. The fluorescent Cas9 protein was observed in all embryos that survived following electroporation. We found that the efficiency of Cas9 protein delivery into embryos via electroporation depended on the pulse length. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the amount of fluorescent Cas9 protein detected in the embryos correlated with the genome editing efficiency of the embryos. These data indicate that the TAKE method using fluorescently-labeled nucleases can be used to optimize the delivery conditions and verify nuclease delivery into individual embryos prior to embryo transfer for the efficient production of genome-edited animals.
In this study, we cryopreserved pig spermatozoa using carboxylated poly-L-lysine (CPLL) as the cryoprotectant to determine its efficacy. Pig spermatozoa were placed in a freezing extender containing 3% (v/v) glycerol and different CPLL concentrations. The motility indices of the spermatozoa cryopreserved with 0.25% (v/v) CPLL at 6 (59.3), 9 (53.7), and 12 (26.2) h after thawing were significantly higher (P < 0.01 or P < 0.05) than those of the spermatozoa cryopreserved without CPLL (53.7, 40.1, and 17.5 at 6, 9, and 12 h after thawing, respectively). The concentration of CPLL in the freezing extender did not affect the ability of frozen-thawed spermatozoa to fertilize oocytes in vitro. However, the blastocyst formation rate of embryos derived from spermatozoa cryopreserved with 0.25% CPLL (24.6%) was significantly higher (P < 0.01) than that of embryos derived from spermatozoa cryopreserved without CPLL (11.2%). The conception rate of the sows inseminated with spermatozoa cryopreserved with 0.25% CPLL (72.2%) was not significantly different from that of the sows inseminated with spermatozoa stored at 17°C (81.3%). However, the mean number of total piglets born to the former (10.0) was significantly lower (P < 0.05) than that of total piglets born to the latter (13.4). The results showed that CPLL in the freezing extender maintained the motility of frozen-thawed pig spermatozoa and improved the in vitro development of embryos produced by in vitro fertilization. In addition, we have demonstrated that piglets could be obtained with artificial insemination using spermatozoa cryopreserved with CPLL.
Embryo-maternal reproductive tract interactions are pivotal for successful pregnancy. The present study predicted the molecules modulating embryo-uterine communication by comparing two sets of differentially expressed genes (DEGs): DEGs in uterine epithelial cells (UECs) collected from the uterus with and without blastocysts and DEGs between blastocysts developed in vivo and in vitro. Cows were subjected to super ovulation (SOV), followed by insemination or non-insemination at estrus (SOV + AI and SOV cows). Seven days after estrus, the uterus was flushed to collect UECs, and the presence of blastocysts in the uterus was confirmed. UECs were subjected to RNA-Sequencing (RNA-Seq) to identify DEGs. Publicly available RNA-Seq data of in vivo and in vitro developed bovine blastocysts were used to determine DEGs. Then, using ingenuity pathway analysis, activated- and inhibited-upstream regulators (USRs) for UECs in blastocysts were compared with those for blastocysts developed in vivo. RNA-Seq of UECs revealed that the DEGs were associated with immune response and cell adhesion pathways. The activated and inhibited USRs of UECs derived from SOV+ AI cows overlapped with the activated and inhibited USRs of blastocysts developed in vivo. Overlapping activated USRs include leukemia inhibitory factor, interleukin 6, fibroblast growth factor-2, transforming growth factor beta-1, and epidermal growth factor. In conclusion, the present study predicted the molecules that potentially mediate communication between the developing embryo and the uterus in vivo and prepare the uterus for pregnancy.
Insulin-like peptide 3 (INSL3) and sex steroids were measured in bovine dominant follicles and corpora lutea during the estrus cycle and in follicular cysts. Paired ovaries from beef heifers (n = 47) were classified, by their morphological features, either into four stages of the estrus cycle (Day 1 = day of ovulation, Day 20 = day of estrus) as Stage I (Days 1–4; n = 8), Stage II (Days 5–10; n = 10), Stage III (Days 11–17; n = 8), and Stage IV (Days 18–20; n = 11) or follicular cystic (n = 10). Cysts (n = 15) were subdivided into estrogen-active (n = 7) and estrogen-inactive (n = 8) cysts. INSL3, testosterone, and estradiol-17β concentrations in the dominant follicular fluid of Stage IV were higher than those in Stages II and III (P < 0.05). INSL3 concentrations in the cystic fluid were similar to those in dominant follicles at Stage IV, whereas testosterone and estradiol-17β concentrations were lower in cysts (P < 0.05). INSL3 content per estrogen-inactive cyst was higher than that of Stage IV (P < 0.05). INSL3 and progesterone concentrations in luteal tissue and contents per corpus luteum were higher in Stages II and III (P < 0.05). In conclusion, INSL3 secretion in bovine dominant follicles increased with maturation. Follicular cysts may retain the production of INSL3 during their formation but tend to lose the capacity for testosterone secretion. Estrogen-inactive cysts subjected to advanced atresia may accumulate more INSL3. INSL3 production in bovine corpora lutea is enhanced during maturation.
Conventional culture systems for bovine embryos are unable to support sustained embryonic development until the developmentally mature blastocyst stage. Although we have previously developed an on-gel culture system that enables bovine blastocysts to complete cell segregation events at day (D) 10 following in vitro culture, the development of D10 blastocysts to term has yet to be achieved. In this study, we attained full-term development of D10 mature blastocysts produced using an on-gel culture system. Two calves derived from on-gel-cultured embryos were vaginally born, showing normal birth and placental weights and no obvious morphological abnormalities. Moreover, we detected no abnormalities in blood metabolic profile analyses. Our findings indicate that on-gel culturing can be used to facilitate the development of developmentally mature blastocysts to term, and produce healthy viable calves. This culture system could make a valuable contribution to cattle production and would enable a range of analyses for characterizing bovine-specific pre-implantation development.
The on-gel culture system enables bovine blastocysts to complete cell segregation events at day (D) 10 following in vitro culture [Left panel: Epiblast marker SOX2 (Yellow), Primitive endoderm marker SOX17 (Magenta), DNA marker Hoechst (Cyan)]. This study demonstrated full-term development of D10 mature blastocysts produced using an on-gel culture system (Saito et al. Generation of viable calves derived from developmentally mature blastocysts produced by on-gel culture, pp. 330–334). This confirms that the on-gel culture system recapitulates preimplantation development to D10 and that the in vitro production of D10 blastocysts for cattle production is feasible. Two calves derived from on-gel–cultured embryos were vaginally born. Birth and placental weight were normal for both calves, and no obvious morphological abnormalities were evident. As of August 30, 2022, the calves are still alive and healthy (Right panel). The ability of the on-gel culture system to recapitulate bovine preimplantation development until D10 could contribute to studies on efficient animal production and preimplantation development in cattle.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is an alternative technique to in vitro fertilization (IVF) for producing transferable blastocysts, especially in combination with cryopreserved oocytes, when the IVF system does not work sufficiently. The present study was conducted to directly compare the efficacy of producing bovine blastocysts by ICSI and IVF from vitrified-warmed and fresh oocytes. Denuded oocytes with a detectable first polar body were vitrified-warmed using a nylon mesh device. In the non-vitrified control group, blastocyst yields 8 days after IVF and ICSI were 32.0 and 26.8%, respectively. Oocyte vitrification and subsequent IVF resulted in an impaired blastocyst yield (15.0%); however, such a loss of efficacy due to vitrification was not observed in the ICSI group (blastocyst yield, 25.2%). The alignment of cortical granules beneath the oolemma was comparable between the fresh control and vitrified-warmed oocytes. Here, we report the high survival of vitrified-warmed bovine oocytes, as assessed by ICSI.
The present study established techniques to induce pseudopregnancy, in vitro oocyte cultures from pronuclear to 2- to 4-cell stages, and embryo transfer in musk shrews, a reflex ovulator. Offspring were subsequently obtained by transferring in vivo-developed or in vitro-cultured embryos. Female musk shrews received human chronic gonadotropin (hCG), with or without mating stimuli, from vasectomized males to produce pseudopregnant recipients. Embryos at the 2- to 4-cell stage were collected 44–48 h after mating. Another set of embryos was collected 26–27 h after mating and then cultured for 20 h from the pronuclear to 2- to 4-cell stages. Subsequently, embryos were transferred into the oviducts of pseudopregnant recipients 24 or 48 h after the induction of pseudopregnancy. Offsprings were successfully obtained from recipients that received hCG 24 h before embryo transfer, regardless of mating stimuli. These techniques may be valuable for producing transgenic musk shrews.