The objective of this study was to compare the ultrastructure of bovine blastocysts produced in vivo or in vitro by using morphometric analysis. Blastocysts produced in vivo (multiple ovulations, MO) were obtained from superovulated Holstein cows. For blastocysts produced in vitro, cumulus-oocyte complexes aspirated from ovaries of Holstein cows were matured and fertilized in vitro. At 20 h postinsemination (hpi), zygotes were distributed into one of three culture media: 1) IVPS (in vitro produced with serum): TCM-199 10% estrous cow serum (ECS); 2) IVPSR (in vitro produced with serum restriction): TCM-199 1% BSA until 72 hpi, followed by TCM-199 10% ECS from 72 to 168 hpi; and 3) mSOF (modified synthetic oviductal fluid): mSOF 0.6% BSA. At 168 hpi, six or seven grade 1 blastocysts from each of the four treatments (MO, IVPS, IVPSR, and mSOF) were fixed and prepared for transmission electron microscopy. Random micrographs of each blastocyst were used to determine the volume density of cellular components. Overall, as blastocysts progressed in development, the volume densities of cytoplasm and intercellular space decreased (P < 0.05) and the volume densities of mature mitochondria, nuclei, blastocoele, and apoptotic bodies increased (P < 0.05). Across treatments, the proportional volumes of nuclei and inclusion bodies were increased in inner cell mass cells compared with trophectoderm cells for mid- and expanded blastocysts. For blastocysts produced in vitro, the volume density of mitochondria was decreased (P < 0.05) as compared with that of blastocycts produced in vivo. The proportional volume of vacuoles was increased (P < 0.05) in blastocysts from the mSOF treatment as compared with blastocysts produced in vivo. For mid- and expanded blastocysts from all three in vitro treatments, the volume density of lipid increased (P < 0.05) and the volume density of nuclei decreased (P < 0.05) compared with those of blastocysts produced in vivo. In conclusion, blastocysts produced in vitro possessed deviations in volume densities of organelles associated with cellular metabolism as well as deviations associated with altered embryonic differentiation. However, the specific nature of these deviations varied with the type of culture conditions used for in vitro embryo production.
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