Delineation of maternal versus direct effects of heat stress in reducing development at the germinal vesicle (GV) stage is challenging, because oocytes spontaneously resume meiosis after removal from antral follicles. The use of S-roscovitine (inhibitor of p34cdc2/cyclin B kinase) to hold bovine oocytes at the GV stage without compromising early embryo development was previously validated in our laboratory. The objective of the present study was to assess the direct effects of an elevated temperature commonly seen in heat-stressed dairy cows on cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) held at the GV stage using 50 μM S-roscovitine. During roscovitine culture, GV-stage COCs (antral follicle diameter, 3–8 mm) were cultured at 38.5 or 41°C. Thereafter, oocytes were removed from roscovitine medium and allowed to undergo in vitro maturation, fertilization, and culture. Zona pellucida hardening (solubility to 0.5% pronase), nuclear stage (Hoechst 33342), cortical granule type (lens culinaris agglutinin-fluorescein isothiocyanate [FITC]), and early embryo development were evaluated. Culture of GV-stage COCs at 41°C increased the proportion that had type III cortical granules and reduced the proportion that progressed to metaphase II after in vitro maturation. Effects of 41°C on zona pellucida hardening, fertilization (penetration, sperm per oocyte, pronuclear formation, and monospermic and putative embryos), and cleavage of putative zygotes were not noted. However, culture of GV-stage COCs at 41°C for 6 h decreased the proportion of 8- to 16-cell embryos, whereas 41°C for 12 h reduced blastocyst development. In summary, antral follicle COCs are susceptible to direct effects of elevated body temperature, which may account in part for reduced fertility in heat-stressed cows.
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