Using a digital videomicroscopic analysis system in the bovine, we showed that the mechanisms of transport caused by ciliary beating are distinctly different in ampulla and isthmus of the oviduct. The average particle transport speed (PTS) in the oviduct (mean, 133 Î¼m/sec) does not differ in the cycle (metestrus) and during pregnancy after implantation, but it is locally modulated at the site of the embryo. Using videomicroscopy, we were able to document that after entering the ampulla, the cumulus-oocyte complex (COC) is not transported by ciliary beating down the oviduct, but firmly attaches to the ampullar epithelium. This attachment is mediated by the cumulus cells. However, when a COC is degenerated, it is floating in the oviductal lumen. As soon as a vital COC is in the ampulla, the sperm bound in the sperm reservoir of the ampullar isthmic junction leave the reservoir and hurry to the oocyte. When a sperm has penetrated the zona pellucida, the COC detaches and continues its migration. Quantitative measurements showed that the early embryo is able to locally downregulate PTS during its migration down the oviduct. It locally changes the pattern of vascularization and induces the formation of secretory cells. Our studies imply that the oviductal epithelium is able to select vital oocytes. The early embryo is able to induce the formation of secretory cells, modify vascularization, and downregulate speed of transport, thus creating the prerequisite for the first embryo-maternal communication in the oviduct.
Leptin has been shown to exert positive effects during the maturation of bovine oocytes, influencing blastocyst development, apoptosis, and the transcript levels of developmentally important genes. The present study was conducted to characterize further the mechanisms of leptin action on oocytes and the role of cumulus cells (CCs) in this context. In the first series of experiments, cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) were matured in serum-free medium that contained 0, 1 or 10 ng/ml leptin or in medium that was supplemented with 10% (v/v) estrus cow serum (ECS). Leptin concentrations of 1 and 10 ng/ml stimulated the meiotic progression of oocytes. Moreover, TUNEL staining demonstrated that these leptin doses reduced the proportion of apoptotic CCs. In the second series of experiments, COCs or denuded oocytes (DOs) were matured in the presence of 0 or 10 ng/ml leptin. The percentages of COCs and DOs with extruded polar bodies were increased by leptin. In contrast, positive effects of leptin on fertilization rates and blastocyst development were only observed after treatment of COCs but not of DOs. Leptin treatment of COCs consistently enhanced blastocyst development even after parthenogenetic activation of oocytes or after the removal of CCs before fertilization. The proportion of polyspermic oocytes was not affected by leptin treatment or oocyte denudation. In the third series of experiments, COCs were matured in the presence of 0, 1 or 10 ng/ml leptin. The transcript levels of specific genes were determined by reverse transcriptase-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) analysis of cumulus cells and single oocytes. Leptin treatment increased the levels of FAS , FASLG , and STAT3 transcripts in oocytes, but did not affect the LEPR, BAX , and BIRC4 mRNA concentrations. In cumulus cells, leptin treatment increased the mRNA levels for LEPR , STAT3 , BAX , BIRC4 , and FAS , but did not alter FASLG mRNA abundance. In conclusion, leptin differentially regulates gene expression in oocytes and cumulus cells. Moreover, leptin enhances both oocyte maturation and developmental capacity via cumulus cell-independent and -dependent mechanisms.
The development of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) embryos critically depends on appropriate reprogramming and expression of pluripotency genes, such as Pou5f1 / POU5F1 (previously known as Oct4 / OCT4 ). To study POU5F1 transcription activation in living bovine SCNT embryos without interference by maternal POU5F1 mRNA, we generated chromosomally normal fetal fibroblast donor cells stably carrying a mouse Pou5f1 promoter-driven enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) reporter gene at a single integration site without detectable EGFP expression. Morphologic and quantitative analyses of whole-mount SCNT embryos by confocal microscopy revealed robust initial activation of the Pou5f1 reporter gene during the fourth cell cycle. In Day 6 SCNT embryos EGFP expression levels were markedly higher than in Day 4 embryos but varied substantially between individual embryos, even at comparable cell numbers. Embryos with low EGFP levels had far more morphologically abnormal cell nuclei than those with high EGFP levels. Our data strongly suggest that bovine SCNT embryos consistently start activation of the POU5F1 promoter during the fourth cell cycle, whereas later in development the expression level substantially differs between individual embryos, which may be associated with developmental potential. In fibroblasts from phenotypically normal SCNT fetuses recovered on Day 34, the Pou5f1 reporter promoter was silent but was activated by a second round of SCNT. The restoration of pluripotency can be directly observed in living cells or SCNT embryos from such Pou5f1 -EGFP transgenic fetuses, providing an attractive model for systematic investigation of epigenetic reprogramming in large mammals.