Mammalian oocytes and early embryos derived from in vitro production are highly susceptible to a variety of cellular stresses. During oocyte maturation and preimplantation embryo development, functional proteins must be folded properly in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to maintain oocyte and embryo development. However, some adverse factors negatively impact ER functions and protein synthesis, resulting in the activation of ER stress and unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling pathways. ER stress and UPR signaling have been identified in mammalian oocytes and embryos produced in vitro, suggesting that modulation of ER stress and UPR signaling play very important roles in oocyte maturation and the development of preimplantation embryos. In this review, we briefly describe the current state of knowledge regarding ER stress, UPR signaling pathways, and their roles and mechanisms in mammalian (excluding human) oocyte maturation and preimplantation embryo development.
Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), a member of the phospholipid autacoid family, is present in human follicular fluid. The aim of the present study was to compare the developmental competence of porcine embryos created via in vitro fertilization (IVF) and parthenogenetic activation (PA) in culture medium supplemented with LPA, in comparison with a control group. The effects of LPA on porcine oocyte maturation and pre-implantation embryonic development were also examined. Addition of 10 μM LPA to the oocyte maturation medium significantly increased the proportion of oocytes reaching metaphase I (MI) or metaphase II (MII), and enhanced embryonic developmental potential. When present during oocyte maturation, LPA significantly increased the abundance of phosphorylated ERK1/2 in MI and MII oocytes, showing that LPA enhanced nuclear maturation via activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. In addition, Cyclin B1 levels were elevated in MI- and MII-stage oocytes, suggesting that LPA plays a role in both nuclear and cytoplasmic maturation of oocytes. After fertilization, the frequency of polyspermy in embryos obtained using LPA-treated oocytes was less than that in the control group. Further, blastocyst formation and blastocyst cell number were enhanced and apoptosis was reduced upon LPA treatment of embryos created either by IVF and PA. LPA treatment of blastocysts derived by IVF or PA resulted in increased expression of the anti-apoptotic BCL2L1 gene while reducing expression of the pro-apoptotic genes BAX and CASP3. Together, our data indicate that LPA supplementation improves porcine oocyte maturation and subsequent in vitro development of pre-implantation embryos.
Cell-to-cell contact mediated by cell adhesion is fundamental to the compaction process that ensures blastocyst quality during embryonic development. In this study, we first showed that Rho-associated coiled-coil protein kinases (ROCK1 and ROCK2) were expressed both in porcine oocytes and IVF preimplantation embryos, playing different roles in oocytes maturation and embryo development. The amount of mRNA encoding ROCK1 and the protein concentration clearly increased between the eight-cell and morula stages, but decreased significantly when blastocysts were formed. Conversely, ROCK2 was more abundant in the blastocyst compared with other embryonic stages. Moreover, immunostaining showed that ROCK1 protein distribution changed as the embryo progressed through cleavage and compaction to the morula stage. Initially, the protein was predominantly associated with the plasma membrane but later became cytoplasmic. By contrast, ROCK2 protein was localized in both the cytoplasm and the spindle rotation region during oocyte meiosis, but in the cytoplasm and nucleus as the embryo developed. In addition, ROCK2 was present in the trophectoderm cells of the blastocyst. Treatment with 15 mM Y27632, a specific inhibitor of ROCKs, completely blocked further development of early four-cell stage embryos. Moreover, we did not detect the expression of ROCK1 but did detect ROCK2 expression in blastocysts. Moreover, lysophosphatidic acid an activator of ROCKs significantly improved the rates of blastocyst formation. These data demonstrate that ROCKs are required for embryo development to the blastocyst stage. Together, our results indicate that ROCK1 and ROCK2 may exert different biological functions during the regulation of compaction and in ensuring development of porcine preimplantation embryos to the blastocyst stage.
The zebrafish model is an attractive candidate for screening of developmental toxicity during early drug development. Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) arouse concern for the risk of teratogenicity, but the data are limited. In this study, we evaluated the teratogenic potential of seven AEDs (carbamazepine (CBZ), ethosuximide (ETX), valproic acid (VPN), lamotrigine (LMT), lacosamide (LCM), levetiracetam (LVT), and topiramate (TPM)) in the zebrafish model. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to AEDs from initiation of gastrula (5.25 hours post-fertilization (hpf)) to termination of hatching (72 hpf) which mimic the mammalian teratogenic experimental design. The lethality and teratogenic index (TI) of AEDs were determined and the TI values of each drug were compared with the US FDA human pregnancy categories. Zebrafish model was useful screening model for teratogenic potential of antiepilepsy drugs and was in concordance with in vivo mammalian data and human clinical data.
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