Paternal effect does not affect in vitro embryo morphokinetics but modulates molecular profile

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The use of different sires influences in vitro embryo production (IVP) outcome. Paternal effects are observed from the first cleavages until after embryonic genome activation (EGA). Little is known about the mechanisms that promote in vitro fertility differences, even less about the consequences on embryo development. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the paternal effect at fertilization, embryo developmental kinetics, gene expression and quality from high and low in vitro fertility bulls. A retrospective analysis for bull selection was performed using the In vitro Brazil company database from 2012 to 2015. The dataset was edited employing cleavage and blastocyst rates ranking a total of 140 bulls. Subsequently, the dataset was restricted by embryo development rate (blastocyst/cleaved rate) and ten bulls were selected as high (HF; n = 5) and low (LF; n = 5) in vitro fertility groups. IVP embryos derived from high and low fertility bulls were classified according to their stage of development (2 cells, 3–4 cells, 6 cells, 8–16 cells), at 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 hpi, respectively, to evaluate embryo kinetics. Pronuclei formation (24 hpi), cleavage rate (Day 3), development rate, and blastocyst morphology (Grade I and II – Day 7) were also assessed, as well as the abundance of 96 transcripts at 8–16 cell stage and blastocysts. There was no difference in early embryo kinetics (P > 0.05), and cleavage rate (HF = 86.7%; LF = 84.9%; P = 0.25). Nevertheless, the fertilization rate was higher on HF (72%) than LF (62%) and the polyspermy rate was lower on HF compared to LF (HF:16.2% LF:29.2%). As expected, blastocyst rate (HF = 29.4%; LF = 16.0%; P < 0.0001) and development rate (HF = 33.9% LF = 18.9%; P < 0.0001) were higher in HF than LF. At the 8–16 cell stage, 22 transcripts were differentially represented (P ≤ 0.05) between the two groups. Only PGK1 and TFAM levels were higher in HF while transcripts related to stress (6/22, ∼27%), cell proliferation (6/22, ∼27%), lipid metabolism genes (5/22, ∼23%), and other cellular functions (5/22, ∼23%) were higher on LF embryos. Blastocysts had 9 differentially represented transcripts (P ≤ 0.05); being only ACSL3 and ELOV1 higher in the HF group. Lipid metabolism genes (3/9, 33%) and other cellular functions (6/9, 67%) were higher in the LF group. In conclusion, the timing of the first cleavages is not affected by in vitro bull fertility. However, low in vitro fertility bulls presented higher polyspermy rates and produced 8–16 cells embryos with higher levels of transcripts related to apoptosis and cell damage pathways compared to high in vitro fertility ones. Evidence such as polyspermy and increase in apoptotic and oxidative stress genes at the EGA stage suggest that embryo development is impaired in the LF group leading to the reduction of blastocyst rate.




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Theriogenology, v. 178, p. 30-39.

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