Special Issue "Unsolved Problems in Reproductive Biology - Current and Forthcoming Advances in Assisted Reproduction Technologies"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Reproduction".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (28 February 2022) | Viewed by 11094

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Alberto Maria Luciano
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Health, Animal Science and Food Safety Reproductive and Developmental Biology Lab, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy
Interests: reproductive biology; developmental biology; ovary; follicle; Oocyte; embryo; assisted reproductive technologies; animal reproduction; fertility

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Although assisted reproduction technologies (ART) have had a significant boost over the past three decades, the propulsive thrust seems to have come to a halt. The advancement of new strategies aimed at increasing reproductive efficiency mainly relates to species-specificity and sometimes to the insufficient quality of gametes available for in vitro techniques.

Firstly, while the different species share general principles of reproductive biology, substantial differences in the biology of the gametes might exist between species. As a consequence, the techniques and strategies successfully applied in a given species are not immediately transferable to another one. Secondly, in addition to individual biological variability, the poor quality of the gametes intended for ART and the difficulty of reproducing in vitro the conditions suitable to ensure the correct functionality of the gametes are critical limiting factors.

We invite original research papers and review articles that address the improvement of reproductive performance with innovative approaches and/or proofs of principle studies. The overall aim is to shed light on animal reproductive biology and increase the translational aspects of assisted reproduction technologies both in animal breeding, conservation of threatened species and the human clinic.

Prof. Alberto Maria Luciano
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Reproductive biology
  • Developmental biology
  • Ovary
  • Follicle
  • Oocyte
  • Testes
  • Sperm
  • Embryo
  • Assisted Reproductive Technologies
  • Fertility preservation
  • Cryopreservation
  • Conservation of threatened animal species
  • Animal reproduction
  • Fertility
  • Gametogenesis
  • Implantation, placenta, uterus
  • Reproductive aging
  • Endocrine disruptors
  • Intergenerational and transgenerational effect

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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Article
A Nuclear and Cytoplasmic Characterization of Bovine Oocytes Reveals That Cysteamine Partially Rescues the Embryo Development in a Model of Low Ovarian Reserve
Animals 2021, 11(7), 1936; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11071936 - 29 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 825
Abstract
Decreased oocyte quality is a major determinant of age-associated fertility decline. Similarly, individuals affected by early ovarian aging carry low-quality oocytes. Using an established bovine model of early ovarian aging, we investigated key features of ‘quality’ oocyte maturation, associated with the onset of [...] Read more.
Decreased oocyte quality is a major determinant of age-associated fertility decline. Similarly, individuals affected by early ovarian aging carry low-quality oocytes. Using an established bovine model of early ovarian aging, we investigated key features of ‘quality’ oocyte maturation, associated with the onset of egg aneuploidy and reproductive aging, such as histone modifications, mitochondria distribution and activity, reduced glutathione (GSH) content, and gap junction functionality. Bovine ovaries were classified according to the antral follicle count (AFC), and the retrieved oocytes were processed immediately or matured in vitro. We observed alterations in several cellular processes, suggesting a multifactorial etiology of the reduced oocyte quality. Furthermore, we performed a rescue experiment for one of the parameters considered. By adding cysteamine to the maturation medium, we experimentally increased the free radical scavenger ability of the ‘low competence’ oocytes and obtained a higher embryo development. Our findings show that adopting culture conditions that counteract the free radicals has a positive impact on the quality of ‘compromised’ oocytes. Specifically, cysteamine treatment seems to be a promising option for treating aging-related deficiencies in embryo development. Full article
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Article
Anti-Oxidative Effects of Human Adipose Stem Cell Conditioned Medium with Different Basal Medium during Mouse Embryo In Vitro Culture
Animals 2020, 10(8), 1414; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081414 - 13 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 916
Abstract
The quality of embryos produced by assisted reproductive techniques should be advanced by the improvement of in vitro culture conditions for successful implantation and pregnancy maintenance. We investigated the anti-oxidative effect of human adipose stem cell (ASC) conditioned medium with its optimal basal [...] Read more.
The quality of embryos produced by assisted reproductive techniques should be advanced by the improvement of in vitro culture conditions for successful implantation and pregnancy maintenance. We investigated the anti-oxidative effect of human adipose stem cell (ASC) conditioned medium with its optimal basal medium, Dulbecco′s modified Eagle′s medium (DMEM-CM), or keratinocyte serum-free medium (KSFM-CM) as supplements during in vitro culture (IVC) of in vitro fertilized mouse embryo. At first, preimplantation embryo development was evaluated in KSFM-CM and DMEM-CM supplemented cultures at various concentrations. The blastocyst (BL) and hatched BL formation rates were significantly increased in 5% DMEM-CM, while no difference was observed from KSFM-CM. Next, comparing the efficacy of KSFM-CM and DMEM-CM at the same concentration, DMEM-CM enhanced the developmental rate of 16 cells, morula, BL, and hatched BL. The expression level of reactive oxygen species decreased and that of glutathione increased in BL cultured with DMEM-CM, which confirms its anti-oxidative effect. Furthermore, apoptosis in BL cultured with DMEM-CM was reduced compared with that in KSFM-CM. This study demonstrated that the comparative effect of human ASC-CM made of two different basal media during mouse embryo IVC and anti-oxidative effect of 5% DMEM-CM was optimal to improve preimplantation embryo development. Full article
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Article
Effects of Short-Term Inhibition of Rho Kinase on Dromedary Camel Oocyte In Vitro Maturation
Animals 2020, 10(5), 750; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10050750 - 25 Apr 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1750
Abstract
This is the first report on a biphasic in vitro maturation (IVM) approach with a meiotic inhibitor to improve dromedary camel IVM. Spontaneous meiotic resumption poses a major setback for in vitro matured oocytes. The overall objective of this study was to improve [...] Read more.
This is the first report on a biphasic in vitro maturation (IVM) approach with a meiotic inhibitor to improve dromedary camel IVM. Spontaneous meiotic resumption poses a major setback for in vitro matured oocytes. The overall objective of this study was to improve in vitro maturation of dromedary camel oocytes using ROCK inhibitor (Y-27632) in a biphasic IVM to prevent spontaneous meiotic resumption. In the first experiment, we cultured immature cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs, n = 375) in a prematuration medium supplemented with ROCK inhibitor (RI) for 2 h, 4 h, 6 h, and 24 h before submission to normal in vitro maturation to complete 28 h. The control was cultured for 28 h in the absence of RI. In the first phase of experiment two, we cultured COCs (n = 480) in the presence or absence (control) of RI for 2 h, 4 h, 6 h, and 24 h, and conducted real-time relative quantitative PCR (qPCR) on selected mRNA transcripts. The same was done in the second phase, but qPCR was done after completion of normal IVM. Assessment of nuclear maturation showed that pre-IVM for 4 h yielded an increase in MII oocyte (54.67% vs. 26.6% of control; p < 0.05). As expected, the same group showed the highest degree (2) of cumulus expansion. In experiment 2, qPCR results showed significantly higher expression of ACTB and BCL2 in the RI group treated for 4 h when compared with the other groups. However, their relative quantification after biphasic IVM did not reveal any significant difference, except for the positive response of BCL2 and BAX/BCL2 ratio after 4 and 6 h biphasic IVM. In conclusion, RI prevents premature oocyte maturation and gave a significantly positive outcome during the 4 h treatment. This finding is a paradigm for future investigation on dromedary camel biphasic IVM and for improving the outcome of IVM in this species. Full article
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Article
Exogenous Oleic Acid and Palmitic Acid Improve Boar Sperm Motility via Enhancing Mitochondrial Β-Oxidation for ATP Generation
Animals 2020, 10(4), 591; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10040591 - 31 Mar 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1381
Abstract
It takes several hours for mammalian sperm to migrate from the ejaculation or insemination site to the fertilization site in the female reproductive tract in which glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids are regarded as the primary substrates for ATP generation. The present [...] Read more.
It takes several hours for mammalian sperm to migrate from the ejaculation or insemination site to the fertilization site in the female reproductive tract in which glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids are regarded as the primary substrates for ATP generation. The present study was designed to investigate whether oleic acid and palmitic acid were beneficial to boar sperm in vitro; and if yes, to elucidate the mechanism that regulates sperm motility. Therefore, the levels of oleic acid and palmitic acid, motility, membrane integrity, acrosome integrity, and apoptosis of sperm were evaluated. Moreover, the enzymes involved in mitochondrial β-oxidation (CPT1: carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1; ACADVL: long-chain acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase) were detected with immunofluorescence and Western blotting. Consequently, the ATP content and the activities of CPT1, ACADVL, malate dehydrogenase (MDH), and succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) were also measured. We observed that CPT1 and ACADVL were expressed in boar sperm and localized in the midpiece. The levels of oleic acid and palmitic acid were decreased during storage at 17 °C. The addition of oleic acid and palmitic acid significantly increased sperm motility, progressive motility, straight-line velocity (VSL), membrane integrity, and acrosome integrity with a simultaneous decrease in sperm apoptosis after seven days during storage. When sperm were incubated with oleic acid and palmitic acid at 37 °C for 3 h, the activities of CPT1 and ACADVL, the ATP level, the mitochondrial membrane potential, the activities of MDH and SDH, as well as sperm motility patterns were significantly increased compared to the control (p < 0.05). Moreover, the addition of etomoxir to the diluted medium in the presence of either oleic acid or palmitic acid and the positive effects of oleic acid and palmitic acid were counteracted. Together, these data suggest that boar sperm might utilize oleic acid and palmitic acid as energy substrates for ATP production via β-oxidation. The addition of these acids could improve sperm quality. Full article
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Article
Expression of FOXL2 and RSPO1 in Hen Ovarian Follicles and Implication of Exogenous Leptin in Modulating Their mRNA Expression in In Vitro Cultured Granulosa Cells
Animals 2019, 9(12), 1083; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121083 - 04 Dec 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1245
Abstract
In this study, using a laying hen model, we determined the expression of FOXL2 and RSPO1 in different central and peripheral tissue and ovarian follicles at different stages of development. At the same time, mRNA expression of both genes in granulosa and theca [...] Read more.
In this study, using a laying hen model, we determined the expression of FOXL2 and RSPO1 in different central and peripheral tissue and ovarian follicles at different stages of development. At the same time, mRNA expression of both genes in granulosa and theca cells harvested from follicles at different stages of folliculogenesis was also evaluated. Finally, we assessed the effect of leptin treatment on expression of FOXL2 and RSPO1 in in vitro cultured granulosa cells harvested from 1–5 mm to F3–F1 follicles. Our RT-qPCR results revealed that a comparatively higher expression of FOXL2 and RSPO1 was observed in ovary, hypothalamus, and pituitary. Abundant mRNA expression of FOXL2 was observed in small prehierarchical follicles (1–1.9 and 2–2.9 mm follicles; p < 0.05), whereas mRNA expression of RSPO1 showed an increasing trend in large hierarchical follicles (F5–F1), and its abundant expression was observed in post-ovulatory follicles. FOXL2 mRNA expression was stable in granulosa cells harvested from 3–5 mm to F4 follicles, and exhibited a significantly higher expression in large hierarchical follicles. Conversely, relatively low mRNA expression of FOXL2 was observed in theca cells. RSPO1 mRNA expression was relatively lower in granulosa cells; however, theca cells exhibited a significantly higher mRNA expression of RSPO1 in F4 to F1 follicles. In the next experiment, we treated the in vitro cultured granulosa cells with different concentrations (1, 10, 100, and 1000 ng/mL) of exogenous leptin. Compared to the control group, a significant increase in the expression of FOXL2 was observed in groups treated with 1, 10, and 100 ng/mL leptin, whereas expression of RSPO1 was increased in all leptin-treated groups. When treated with 100 ng/mL leptin, FOXL2 and RSPO1 expression was upregulated in cultured granulosa cells harvested from both large hierarchical (F3–F1) and small prehierarchical follicles (1–5 mm). Based on these findings and evidence from mainstream literature, we envisage that FOXL2 and RSPO1 genes (in connection with hypothalamic-hypophysis axis) and leptin (via modulation of FOXL2 and RSPO1 expression) might have significant physiological roles, at least in part, in modulating the ovarian mechanisms, such as follicle development, selection, and steroidogenesis in laying hens. Full article
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Review

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Review
Fighting Like Cats and Dogs: Challenges in Domestic Carnivore Oocyte Development and Promises of Innovative Culture Systems
Animals 2021, 11(7), 2135; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11072135 - 19 Jul 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1488
Abstract
In vitro embryo production in cats and dogs still presents some challenges, and it needs to be optimized to transfer efficient protocols to related wild, endangered species. While the chemical composition of culture media has been the focus of several studies, the importance [...] Read more.
In vitro embryo production in cats and dogs still presents some challenges, and it needs to be optimized to transfer efficient protocols to related wild, endangered species. While the chemical composition of culture media has been the focus of several studies, the importance of culture substrates for oocyte and embryo culture has often been neglected. Traditional in vitro systems, i.e., two-dimensional cultures, do not resemble the physiological environments where cells develop, and they may cause morphological and functional alterations to oocytes and embryos. More modern three-dimensional and microfluidic culture system better mimic the structure and the stimuli found in in vivo conditions, and they could better support the development of oocytes and embryos in vitro, as well as the maintenance of more physiological behaviors. This review describes the different culture systems tested for domestic carnivore reproductive cells along the years, and it summarizes their effects on cultured cells with the purpose of analyzing innovative options to improve in vitro embryo production outcomes. Full article
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Review
Assisted Reproductive Technology in Neotropical Deer: A Model Approach to Preserving Genetic Diversity
Animals 2021, 11(7), 1961; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11071961 - 30 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1560
Abstract
One of the most significant challenges in deer is the ability to maintain genetic diversity, avoiding inbreeding and sustaining population health and reproduction. Although our general knowledge of reproductive physiology is improving, it appears that the application of assisted reproductive technology (ART) will [...] Read more.
One of the most significant challenges in deer is the ability to maintain genetic diversity, avoiding inbreeding and sustaining population health and reproduction. Although our general knowledge of reproductive physiology is improving, it appears that the application of assisted reproductive technology (ART) will more efficiently advance wildlife conservation efforts and preserve genetic diversity. The purpose of this review is to present the most important results obtained with the use of ART in Neotropical deer. Thus, the state-of-the-art for estrus synchronization, semen technology, artificial insemination, and in vivo embryo production will be presented. In vitro embryo production (IVP) is also a biotechnology that is taking initial steps in deer. In this aspect, the approach with the proteomics of ovarian follicular fluid is being used as a tool for a better understanding of oocyte maturation. Finally, cell banks and the use of interspecific somatic cell nuclear transfer (iSCNT) as well as the use of stem cells for gametes differentiation are promising techniques. Full article
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