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Analysis of equine zygote development after intracytoplasmic sperm injection




Ruggeri, Elena, author
Carnevale, Elaine, advisor
Clay, Colin, advisor
Albertini, David, committee member
DeLuca, Jennifer, committee member
Seidel, George, committee member

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Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is an established and widely used method to achieve oocyte fertilization in equine reproductive assisted technologies. However, not all the oocytes fertilized by ICSI undergo cleavage and develop into viable embryos. Limited knowledge on equine zygote development after ICSI is available, and reasons why developmental failure occurs after ICSI have been only partially studied and need further investigation. Fertility decline and early embryo loss is associated with maternal aging in the mare, and it is concomitant with reduced oocyte quality. Relatively little is known about the effect of maternal aging and zygote developmental failure or success in the mare. Effects of in vitro maturation of the oocyte or zygote development in the mare still need to be clarified and further studied. The overall objective of this dissertation was to study equine zygote development after ICSI using confocal microscopy. Objectives were to: (1) compare cytoskeletal and nuclear changes during progression of equine zygote development after ICSI for in vivo versus in vitro matured oocytes; (2) compare changes in cytoskeletal and chromosomal configurations after ICSI between oocytes from young and old mares to define maternal-aging related alterations; (3) determine cytoskeletal and nuclear alterations associated with fertilization failure in ICSI-produced presumptive zygotes in young and old mares; (4) determine cell-aging and cell donor-aging effects on cytoskeleton and chromatin configurations. Specifically, in our studies we evaluated the tubulin and actin cytoskeleton, chromatin, and kinetochores/centromeres. Immunostaining and confocal imaging of the equine zygotes was performed using a spinning disk confocal microscope. After ICSI, five distinct events of development were observed with no major differences over time whether oocytes matured in vivo or in vitro. Oocytes matured in vivo appeared to reach the pronucleus stage earlier after ICSI compared to in vitro matured oocytes. Abnormal phenotypes associated with fertilization failure were more significant in oocytes matured in vitro than in vivo. When ICSI was performed in oocytes from young and old mares, similar stages of zygote development were observed, and the number of zygotes reaching the pronucleus stage was similar between the two age groups. Nucleolus like bodies, sites of ribosomal RNA involved in embryonic genome activation, were observed only in zygotes at the pronucleus stage from young mares; no nucleolus-like bodies were observed in pronuclei of zygotes from old mares. Pronuclei morphology, based on CREST staining, and DNA localization, also differed between pronuclei of young and old mares. Actin vesicles were observed significantly more often within zygotes from old mares compared to young mares during all stages of zygote developmental progression. When potential zygotes were analyzed after failure of cleavage after ICSI, actin vesicles were greater in area, perimeter and number in oocytes from old mares than those from young mares. Tubulin cytoskeletal multiasters were associated with cell aging and with increased interval after ICSI for young mares but not old mares. In conclusion, zygotes produced from oocytes matured in vivo versus in vitro or collected from young and old mares went through similar stages of development, with pronuclei attainment appearing to be a crucial event in zygote development. Actin vesicles were a major cytoskeletal difference associated with oocyte origin and a potential factor involved in developmental failure of the oocyte. Confocal microscopy and image analysis were novel methods used to describe the equine zygote development and allowed us to elucidate the cytoskeletal and nuclear remodeling events that follow fertilization after ICSI in the mare.


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intracytoplasmic sperm injection
confocal microscopy
maternal aging


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