Compared with oocytes matured in vivo, in vitro-matured oocytes are compromised in their capacity to support early embryo development. Delaying spontaneous in vitro meiotic maturation using specific phosphodiesterase (PDE) isoenzyme inhibitors may permit more complete oocyte cytoplasmic maturation, possibly by prolonging cumulus cell (CC)-oocyte gap junctional communication during meiotic resumption. This study aimed to investigate the effect of the isoenzyme 3- (oocyte) and isoenzyme 4- (granulosa cell) specific PDE inhibitors on the kinetics of in vitro maturation and on subsequent oocyte developmental competence. Cumulus-oocyte complexes from antral bovine follicles were isolated and cultured in the presence of the specific PDE inhibitors milrinone (type 3) or rolipram (type 4) (100 μM). In the presence of FSH, both PDE inhibitors only slightly extended CC-oocyte gap junctional communication over the first 9 h, but they completely blocked meiotic resumption during this period (P < 0.001). The indefinite inhibitory effect of milrinone on meiotic resumption (30% at germinal vesicle stage after 48 h) was overridden by 24 h when treated with FSH, but not with hCG, suggesting a form of induced meiotic resumption. Oocytes treated with FSH with or without either PDE inhibitor were inseminated at either 24, 26, or 28 h. Treated with either the type 3 or type 4 PDE inhibitor significantly (P < 0.05) increased embryo development to the blastocyst stage by 33%–39% (to an average of 52% blastocysts) compared with control oocytes (38%) after insemination at 28 h, and significantly (P < 0.05) increased blastocyst cell numbers when inseminated at 24 h. These results suggest that delayed spontaneous meiotic maturation, coupled with extended gap junctional communication between the CCs and the oocyte has a positive effect on oocyte cytoplasmic maturation, thereby improving oocyte developmental potential.
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