A morphological classification of the immature cumulus-oocyte complex (COC), which grossly resembled the atresia grade of its follicle source, was used in bovine oocytes to determine 1) the developmental potential by either in vitro fertilization or parthenogenetic activation, 2) the calcium current activity by whole-cell voltage clamp technique, and 3) the intracytoplasmic calcium stores by microfluorimetric evaluation. The COC classification took into account some cumulus and ooplasm features, designated as follows: A) presence of a clear and compact cumulus and translucent ooplasm, B) dark and compact cumulus and dark ooplasm, and C) dark and expanded cumulus and dark ooplasm. We found no difference between in vitro fertilization and parthenogenetically activated oocytes in terms of cleavage rate and blastocyst production. Both protocols indicated a significant variability between the three compared COC categories. The B-COCs showed the highest embryo production efficiency as well as the greatest Ca2 current activity, whereas A-COCs showed an opposite pattern. The C-COCs, mostly attributed to atretic and heavily atretic follicles, showed morphological characteristics between those of A- and B-COCs. Stores of Ca2 were significantly greater in A-COCs than in B- and C-COCs in the case of immature oocytes, and greater in B-COCs than in C-and A-COCs in the case of in vitro-matured oocytes. These results demonstrate that in the bovine 1) the considered morphological criteria for oocyte classification are related to developmental competence, 2) plasma membrane Ca2 current in the immature oocyte is related to developmental potential, and 3) calcium stores are related to morphological quality in immature oocytes and to developmental competence in mature oocytes.
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