There is a vital need to identify factors that enhance human and nonhuman primate in vitro embryo culture and outcome, and to identify the factors that facilitate that objective. Granulosa and cumulus cells were obtained from rhesus monkeys that had either been FSH-primed (in vitro maturation [IVM]) or FSH and hCG-primed (in vivo maturation [VVM]) and compared for the expression of mRNAs encoding follistatin (FST), inhibin, and activin receptors. The FST mRNA displayed marginally decreased expression (P = 0.05) in association with IVM in the granulosa cells. The ACVR1B mRNA was more highly expressed in cumulus cells with IVM compared with VVM. Cumulus-oocyte complexes from FSH-primed monkeys exposed to exogenous FST during the 24-h IVM period exhibited no differences in the percentage of oocytes maturing to the metaphase II stage of meiosis compared to controls. However, embryos from these oocytes had significantly decreased development to the blastocyst stage. The effect of FST on early embryo culture was determined by exposing fertilized VVM oocytes to exogenous FST from 12 to 60 h postinsemination. FST significantly improved time to first cleavage and embryo development to the blastocyst stage compared with controls. The differential effects of exogenous FST on embryo development, when administered before and after oocyte maturation, may depend on the endogenous concentration in cumulus cells and oocytes. These results reveal evolutionary conservation of a positive effect of FST on embryogenesis that may be broadly applicable to enhance in vitro embryogenesis, with potential application to human clinical outcome and livestock and conservation biology.
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Vol. 81 • No. 6