Aaron Bonk

University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, United States

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Publications (16)74.63 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Early embryonic development in the pig requires DNA methylation remodeling of the maternal and paternal genomes. Aberrant remodeling, which can be exasperated by in vitro technologies, is detrimental to development and can result in physiological and anatomic abnormalities in the developing fetus and offspring. Here, we developed and validated a microarray based approach to characterize on a global scale the CpG methylation profiles of porcine gametes and blastocyst stage embryos. The relative methylation in the gamete and blastocyst samples showed that 18.5% (921/4,992) of the DNA clones were found to be significantly different (P < 0.01) in at least one of the samples. Furthermore, for the different blastocyst groups, the methylation profile of the in vitro-produced blastocysts was less similar to the in vivo-produced blastocysts as compared to the parthenogenetic- and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)-produced blastocysts. The microarray results were validated by using bisulfite sequencing for 12 of the genomic regions in liver, sperm, and in vivo-produced blastocysts. These results suggest that a generalized change in global methylation is not responsible for the low developmental potential of blastocysts produced by using in vitro techniques. Instead, the appropriate methylation of a relatively small number of genomic regions in the early embryo may enable early development to occur.
    Molecular Reproduction and Development 02/2008; 75(2):250-64. · 2.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Methylation of DNA is the most commonly studied epigenetic mechanism of developmental competence and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Previous studies of epigenetics and the SCNT procedures have examined the effects of different culture media on donor cells and reconstructed embryos, and the methylation status of specific genes in the fetus or live offspring. Here we used a microarray based approach to identify the methylation profiles of SCNT donor cells including three clonal porcine fetal fibroblast-like cell sublines and adult somatic cells selected from kidney and mammary tissues. The methylation profiles of the donor cells were then analyzed with respect to their ability to direct development to the blastocyst stage after nuclear transfer. Clonal cell lines A2, A7 and A8 had blastocyst rates of 11.7%(a), 16.7%(ab) and 20.0%(b), respectively ((ab) p < 0.05). Adult somatic cells included kidney, mammary (large), and mammary (small) also had different blastocyst rates (ab p < 0.05) of 4.2% (a), 10.7% (ab) and 18.3% (b), respectively. For clonal donor cells and for adult somatic cell groups the donor cells with the highest blastocyst rates also had methylation profiles with the lowest similarity to the methylation profiles of the in vivo-produced blastocysts. Conversely, the donor cells with the lowest blastocyst rates had methylation profiles with the highest similarity to the methylation profiles of the in vivo-produced blastocysts. Our findings show there is an inverse correlation to the similarity of the methylation profiles of the donor cells and the in vivo-produced embryos, and to the blastocyst rates following SCNT.
    Epigenetics: official journal of the DNA Methylation Society 10/2007; 2(3):179-86. · 4.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Parthenogenesis (PA) of the oocyte is essential to a number of oocyte- or embryo-related technologies such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection and cloning by nuclear transfer. This study investigated the onset and frequency of apoptosis in PA- porcine embryos and the morphological changes that conform to the general criteria of apoptotic cell death by using a terminal deoxynucleatidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine 5-triphosphate nick-end labeling (TUNEL) assay. PA embryos had a higher degree of apoptotic cell death during in vitro culture, a lower cleavage rate (45% vs. 71%), and a lower development rate to the blastocyst stage (16% vs. 29%), relative to in vitro fertilization (IVF). The earliest positive TUNEL signal in the PA embryos was detected on Day 6, 1 day later than that in IVF embryos. Apoptosis in PA embryos increased from 15% of the embryos on Day 6 to 29% on Day 8. The mean level of apoptosis of the PA embryos was statistically higher than that of IVF embryos, except on Day 5. In particular, apoptosis in PA embryos was twice that of IVF embryos on Day 6 (15% vs. 6.7%) and Day 8 (29% vs. 13%). The mean cell number in PA blastocysts was significantly lower than that of IVF blastocysts, whereas the percentage of apoptosis in PA blastocysts was significantly higher than that of IVF blastocysts. There was a high percentage of haploid (62.5%) PA blastocysts. The ploidy may contribute to a high level of apoptosis. These results may help to explain the mechanism of parthenogenetic developmental failure and may lead to methods that will improve parthenogenetic development.
    Biology of Reproduction 07/2004; 70(6):1644-9. · 4.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigated the effect of culture media and gas atmospheres on the development of porcine nuclear transfer embryos. Oocytes derived from a local abattoir were matured for 42-44 h and enucleated. Fetal fibroblasts were prepared from a Day 35 porcine fetus. Confluent stage fetal fibroblasts were introduced into the perivitelline space of enucleated oocytes. Fusion and activation were induced simultaneously with two direct current (1.2 kV/cm for 30 micros) in 0.3 M mannitol medium. For parthenogenetic activation, the same pulses were used. In Experiment 1, parthenogenetically activated oocytes were cultured in North Carolina State University-23 (NCSU-23), Porcine Zygote Medium-3 (PZM-3), or Beltsville Embryo Culture Medium-3 (BECM-3). Parthenogenetically activated oocytes cultured in PZM-3 had a higher (P < 0.05) developmental rate to the blastocyst stage (15.2% versus 3.7-9.6%) as compared to BECM-3 or NCSU-23. The number of nuclei in Day 6 blastocysts was higher (P < 0.05) in PZM-3 (23.6) and NCSU-23 (21.4) than BECM-3 (14.2). In Experiment 2, parthenogenetically activated oocytes were cultured in NCSU-23 under a gas atmosphere of 5% CO(2) in air for 6 days (T1), 5% CO(2), 5% O(2), 90% N(2) for 6 days (T2), 5% CO(2) in air for 3 days, then 5% CO(2), 5% O(2), 90% N(2) for 3 days (T3), or 5% CO(2), 5% O(2), 90% N(2) for 3 days, then 5% CO(2) in air for 3 days (T4). Blastocyst formation rates were not different among treatments (12.9 =/-3.6 %, 13.5 +/- 4.2%, 10.8+/-2.4%, and 12.6+/-2.7%, respectively). However, T2 (36.7+/-2.9) and T3 (33.8+/-3.0) resulted in more nuclei per blastocyst than T1 (23.2+/-2.1) or T4 (26.0+/-2.1 ). In Experiment 3, reconstructed porcine nuclear transfer (NT) embryos were cultured in NCSU-23 or PZM-3 under a gas atmosphere of 5% CO(2) in air or 5% CO(2), 5% O(2), 90% N(2). Developmental rates to blastocyst stage for porcine NT embryos cultured in NCSU-23 under a gas atmosphere of 5% CO(2) in air or 5% CO(2), 5% O(2), 90% N(2) were 7.2+/-1.4% and 12.3+/-1.4%, and the number of nuclei was 12.2=/-0.8% and 19.4+/-1.0, respectively. NT embryos cultured in PZM-3 under a gas atmosphere of 5% CO(2) in air or 5% CO(2), 5% O(2), 90% N(2) had developmental rates to blastocyst stage of 18.8+/-1.9 %, and 17.8+/-3.8% the nuclei number was 20.9 +/- 1.9 and 21.9+/-3.3, respectively. NT embryos cultured in NCSU-23 had a higher developmental rate to the blastocyst stage in 5% CO(2), 5% O(2), 90% N(2) than in 5% CO(2) in air (P < 0.05). Regardless of gas atmospheres, NT embryos cultured in PZM-3 had a higher developmental rate (18.3 =/- 1.7% versus 16.9 +/- 1.2%) and nuclei number (21.4 +/-1.8 versus 16.9 +/- 1.2) than in NCSU-23 (P < 0.05). In conclusion, a gas atmosphere of 5% CO(2), 5% O(2), 90% N(2) supported a higher development rate of porcine NT embryos than 5% CO(2) in air when the porcine NT embryos were cultured in NCSU-23. Furthermore, regardless of atmosphere, PZM-3 supported a higher development rate of porcine nuclear transfer embryos than NCSU-23.
    Theriogenology 05/2004; 61(6):1125-35. · 2.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Apoptosis occurs during preimplantation development in both in vivo- and in vitro-produced embryos, and it may contribute to embryonic loss. The present study investigated the development of porcine nuclear transfer (NT) embryos reconstructed by using fetal fibroblasts as compared to embryos produced by in vitro fertilization (IVF). The onset and the frequency of apoptosis in NT and IVF embryos were examined via morphological and nuclear changes and TUNEL assay. The NT blastocysts had a similar number of nuclei as compared to IVF blastocysts and appeared to be morphologically similar. Relative to IVF embryos, the NT embryos had a lower cleavage rate (42.7% vs. 71.0%) and a lower developmental rate (11.1% vs. 28.6%) to the blastocyst stage. The earliest positive TUNEL signals were detected in the NT embryos on Day 5 of culture. The percentage of cells undergoing apoptosis in the NT embryos was higher than that of the IVF embryos and increased with time in vitro. Some of the abnormal morphological changes observed during early development related to apoptosis. Cytoplasmic fragmentation, developmental arrest, and nuclear condensation were typical characteristics of embryos undergoing apoptosis. Some mechanisms of the apoptotic pathway were triggered by changes in the NT embryos. The developmental rates of NT embryos might be improved by identifying specific apoptotic pathways and then intervening in these pathways to improve development.
    Biology of Reproduction 09/2003; 69(2):501-7. · 4.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The presence of the Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchange mechanism was investigated in porcine oocytes. Immature and in vitro-matured oocytes were loaded with the Ca(2+)-sensitive fluorescent dye fura 2 and changes in the intracellular free Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)) were monitored after altering the Na(+) concentration gradient across the plasma membrane. Decreasing the extracellular Na(+) concentration induced an increase in [Ca(2+)](i) possibly by a Ca(2+) influx via the Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchanger. A similar Ca(2+) influx could also be triggered after increasing the intracellular Na(+) concentration by incubation in the presence of ouabain (0.4 mM), a Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase inhibitor. The increase in the [Ca(2+)](i) was due to Ca(2+) influx since it was abolished in the absence of extracellular Ca(2+), and the increase was mediated by the Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchanger since it was blocked by the application of amiloride or bepridil, inhibitors of Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchange. Verapamil (50 micro M) and pimozide (50 micro M), inhibitors of L- and T-type voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels, respectively, could not block the Ca(2+) influx. The Ca(2+) entry via the Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchanger could not induce the release of cortical granules and did not stimulate the resumption of meiosis. This was unexpected because Ca(2+) is thought to be a universal trigger for activation. Using antibodies raised against the exchanger, it was demonstrated that the Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchanger was localized predominantly in the plasma membrane. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction revealed that porcine oocytes contain a transcript that shows 98.1% homology to the NACA3 isoform of the porcine Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchanger.
    Biology of Reproduction 11/2002; 67(4):1133-9. · 4.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Fetal-derived fibroblast cells were transduced with replication defective vectors containing the enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). The transgenic cells were treated with colchicine, which theoretically would synchronize the cells into G2/M stage, and then used as donor nuclei for nuclear transfer. The donor cells were transferred into the perivitalline space of enucleated in vitro matured porcine oocytes, and fused and activated with electrical pulses. A total of 8.3% and 28.6% of reconstructed oocytes showed nuclear envelope breakdown and premature chromosome condensation 0.5 and 2 hr after activation, respectively. Percentage of pronuclear formation was 62.5, 12 hr after activation. Most (91.4%) of the 1-cell embryos with pronuclei did not extrude a polar body. Most (77.2%) embryos on day 5 were diploid. Within 2 hr after fusion, strong fluorescence was detectable in most reconstructed oocytes (92.3%). The fluorescence in all NT embryos became weak 15 hr after fusion and disappeared when culture to 48 hr. But from day 3, cleaved embryos at the 2- to 4-cell stage started to express EGFP again. On day 7, 85.8% of cleaved embryos expressed EGFP. A total of 9.4% of reconstructed embryos developed to blastocyst stage and 71.5% of the blastoctysts expressed EGFP. After 200 reconstructed 1-cell stage embryos were transferred into four surrogate gilts, three recipients were found to be pregnant. One of them maintained to term and delivered a healthy transgenic piglet expressing EGFP. Our data suggest that the combination of transduction of somatic cells by a replication defective vector with the nuclear transfer of colchicine-treated donors is an alternative to produce transgenic pigs. Furthermore, the tissues expressing EGFP from descendents of this pig may be very useful in future studies using pigs that require genetically marked cells.
    Molecular Reproduction and Development 08/2002; 62(3):300-6. · 2.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Genetically modified domestic animals have many potential applications ranging from basic research to production agriculture. One of the goals in transgenic animal production schemes is to reliably predict the expression pattern of the foreign gene. Establishing a method to screen genetically modified embryos for transgene expression before transfer to surrogates may improve the likelihood of producing offspring with the desired expression pattern. In order to determine how transgene expression may be regulated in the early embryo, we generated porcine embryos from two distinct genetically modified cell lines by using the nuclear transfer (NT) technique. Both cell lines expressed the enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP); the first was a fibroblast cell line derived from the skin of a newborn pig that expressed eGFP, whereas the second was a fetal derived fibroblast cell line into which the eGFP gene was introduced by a retroviral vector. The reconstructed embryos were activated by electrical pulses and cultured in NCSU23. Although the in vitro developmental ability of each group of NT embryos was not different, the eGFP expression pattern was different. All embryos produced from the transduced fetal cell line fluoresced, but only 26% of the embryos generated from the newborn cell line fluoresced, and among those that did express eGFP, more than half had a mosaic expression pattern. This was unexpected because the fetal cell line was not clonally selected, and each cell had potentially different sites of integration. Embryos generated from the newborn cell line were surgically transferred to five surrogate gilts. One gilt delivered four female piglets, all of which expressed eGFP, and all had microsatellites identical to the donor. Here we demonstrate that transgene expression in all the blastomeres of an NT embryo is not uniform. In addition, transgene expression in a genetically manipulated embryo may not be an accurate indicator of expression in the resulting offspring.
    Biology of Reproduction 05/2002; 66(4):1001-5. · 4.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The presence of the capacitative Ca(2+) entry mechanism was investigated in porcine oocytes. In vitro-matured oocytes were treated with thapsigargin in Ca(2+)-free medium for 3 h to deplete intracellular calcium stores. After restoring extracellular calcium, a large calcium influx was measured by using the calcium indicator dye fura-2, indicating capacitative Ca(2+) entry. A similar divalent cation influx could also be detected with the Mn(2+)-quench technique after inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate-induced Ca(2+) release. In both cases, lanthanum, the Ca(2+) permeable channel inhibitor, completely blocked the influx caused by store depletion. Heterologous expression of Drosophila trp in porcine oocytes enhanced the thapsigargin-induced Ca(2+) influx. Polymerase chain reaction cloning using primers that were designed based on mouse and human trp sequences revealed that porcine oocytes contain a trp homologue. As in other cell types, the capacitative Ca(2+) entry mechanism might help in refilling the intracellular stores after the release of Ca(2+) from the stores. Further investigation is needed to determine whether the trp channel serves as the capacitative Ca(2+) entry pathway in porcine oocytes or is simply activated by the endogenous capacitative Ca(2+) entry mechanism and thus contributes to Ca(2+) influx.
    Biology of Reproduction 04/2002; 66(3):667-74. · 4.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The relative quantity of cyclin B1 was determined during the development of in vitro and in vivo derived porcine 4-cell embryos by western blotting and immunolocalised during the 4-cell stage. After cleavage to the 4-cell stage cyclin B1 localised to the cytoplasm at the 5, 10, 18 and 25 time points and localised to the nucleus 33 h post 4-cell cleavage (P4CC). The relative abundance of cyclin B1 was not significantly different in in vivo or in vitro derived 4-cell stage embryos cultured in the absence of the RNA polymerase inhibitor alpha-amanitin. Cyclin B1 protein was not detectable in embryos cultured in medium without alpha-amanitin for 5, 10, 18 or 25 h P4CC followed by culture in medium with alpha-amanitin to 33 P4CC. These results suggest that the maternal to zygotic transition of mRNA production that occurs at the 4-cell stage of the pig embryo does not result in an increase in cyclin B1 production. In addition, cyclin B1 protein levels remained constant in the absence of embryonic genome activation at the 4-cell stage.
    Zygote 03/2002; 10(1):79-84. · 1.50 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The presence of galactose alpha-1,3-galactose residues on the surface of pig cells is a major obstacle to successful xenotransplantation. Here, we report the production of four live pigs in which one allele of the alpha-1,3-galactosyltransferase locus has been knocked out. These pigs were produced by nuclear transfer technology; clonal fetal fibroblast cell lines were used as nuclear donors for embryos reconstructed with enucleated pig oocytes.
    Science 03/2002; 295(5557):1089-92. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The ability to add or delete specific genes in swine will likely provide considerable benefits not just to agriculture but also to medicine, where pigs have potential as models for human disease and as organ donors. Here we have transferred nuclei from a genetically modified fibroblast cell line to porcine oocytes, matured in vitro under defined culture conditions, to create piglets expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein. The nuclear transfer-derived piglets were of normal size, although some mild symptoms of "large offspring syndrome" were evident. These experiments represent a next step towards creating swine with more useful genetic modifications.
    Animal Biotechnology 12/2001; 12(2):173-81. · 0.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to evaluate in vitro and in vivo development of porcine in vitro matured (IVM) porcine oocytes fertilised by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and the possibility of producing transgenic embryos and offspring with this procedure. Activated ICSI oocytes had a higher pronuclear formation than non-activated ICSI oocytes (mean 64.8+/-17.3% vs 28.5+/-3.4%, p<0.05). When the zygotes with two pronuclei were cultured to day 2, there was no difference (p<0.05) in the cleavage rate (mean 60.0+/-7.0% vs 63.3+/-12.7%) between the two groups. The blastocyst rate in the activation group was significantly higher than that in the non-activation group (mean 30.0+/-11.6% vs 4.6+/-4.2%, p<0.05). After injection of the sperm transfected with DNA/liposome complex, destabilised enhanced green fluorescent protein (d2EGFP) expression was not observed on day 2 in either cleaved or uncleaved embryos. But from day 3, some of the embryos at the 2-cell to 4-cell stage started to express d2EGFP. On day 7, about 30% of cleaved embryos, which were in the range of 2-cell to blastocyst stage, expressed d2EGFP. However, for the IVF oocytes inseminated with sperm transfected with DNA/liposome complex, and for oocytes injected with sperm transfected with DNA/liposome complex, and for oocytes injected with DNA/liposome complex following insemination with sperm not treated with DNA/liposome complex, none of the embryos expressed d2EGFP. Sixteen day 4 ICSI embryos derived from sperm not treated with DNA/liposome complex were transferred into a day 3 recipient. One recipient delivered a female piglet with normal birthweight. After transfer of the ICSI embryos derived from sperm transfected with DNA/liposome complex, none of the four recipients maintained pregnancy.
    Zygote 11/2001; 9(4):339-46. · 1.50 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to evaluate in vitro and in vivo development of porcine in vitro matured (IVM) porcine oocytes fertilised by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and the possibility of producing transgenic embryos and offspring with this procedure. Activated ICSI oocytes had a higher pronuclear formation than non-activated ICSI oocytes (mean 64.8±17.3% vs 28.5±3.4%, p<0.05). When the zygotes with two pronuclei were cultured to day 2, there was no difference (p<0.05) in the cleavage rate (mean 60.0±7.0% vs 63.3±12.7%) between the two groups. The blastocyst rate in the activation group was significantly higher than that in the non-activation group (mean 30.0±11.6% vs 4.6±4.2%, p<0.05). After injection of the sperm transfected with DNA/liposome complex, destabilised enhanced green fluorescent protein (d2EGFP) expression was not observed on day 2 in either cleaved or uncleaved embryos. But from day 3, some of the embryos at the 2-cell to 4-cell stage started to express d2EGFP. On day 7, about 30% of cleaved embryos, which were in the range of 2-cell to blastocyst stage, expressed d2EGFP. However, for the IVF oocytes inseminated with sperm transfected with DNA/liposome complex, and for oocytes injected with sperm transfected with DNA/liposome complex, and for oocytes injected with DNA/liposome complex following insemination with sperm not treated with DNA/liposome complex, none of the embryos expressed d2EGFP. Sixteen day 4 ICSI embryos derived from sperm not treated with DNA/liposome complex were transferred into a day 3 recipient. One recipient delivered a female piglet with normal birthweight. After transfer of the ICSI embryos derived from sperm transfected with DNA/liposome complex, none of the four recipients maintained pregnancy.
    Zygote 10/2001; 9(04):339 - 346. · 1.50 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Morphological and biochemical changes indicative of cytoplasmic maturation in relation to nuclear maturation progression and early embryo developmental potential was studied. Fluorescently labeled microfilaments and cortical granules were visualized by using laser scanning confocal microscopy. The mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase phosphorylation and cyclin B1 levels were revealed by Western blot. With the maturation of oocytes, cortical granules and microfilaments were localized at the cell cortex. A cortical granule-free domain (CGFD) and an actin-thickening area were observed over both the MII spindle of a mature oocyte and chromosomes of a nocodazole-treated oocyte, suggesting that chromosomes, but not the spindle, determined the localization of CGFD and actin-thickening area. In oocytes that are incompetent to resume meiosis, as indicated by the failure of germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD), peripheral localization of cortical granules and microfilaments, phosphorylation of MAP kinase and synthesis of cyclin B1 did not occur after 44 hr in vitro. These cytoplasmic changes were also blocked when GVBD of meiotically competent oocytes was inhibited by cycloheximide. Culture of oocytes in a chemically defined medium showed that biological factors such as gonadotropins, cumulus cells and follicle size affected both nuclear and cytoplasmic maturation as well as embryo developmental potential. Absence of gonadotropins or removal of cumulus cells alone did not significantly influence GVBD or cyclin B1 levels, but decreased the final maturation and developmental ability of oocytes. A combination of gonadotropin absence and cumulus removal decreased GVBD, MAP kinase phosphorylation and embryo development. A high proportion of oocytes derived from small follicles were able to resume meiosis, synthesize cyclin B(1), phosphorylate MAP kinase and translocate CGs, but their maturation and embryo developmental ability were limited. Removal of cumulus cells from small follicle-derived oocytes severely affected their ability to undergo cytoplasmic and nuclear maturation.
    Molecular Reproduction and Development 07/2001; 59(2):192-8. · 2.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It is not known how the fertilizing sperm elicits the release of Ca(2+) from the oocyte's intracellular stores. We investigated whether a crude extract isolated from boar sperm could induce the Ca(2+) release and trigger subsequent early and late activation events upon injection into matured porcine oocytes. The sperm extract induced an immediate rise in the intracellular free Ca(2+) concentration in all oocytes tested, which was followed by repetitive Ca(2+) transients in 11 out of 14 oocytes. Heat or trypsin treatment of the extract totally abolished the Ca(2+) releasing activity of the sperm factor. The injected oocytes showed cortical granule exocytosis, they resumed meiosis and entered first interphase: pronuclei were formed in 89.2% (132/148) of the cases. Pronuclear formation was accompanied by the appearance of a new 22 kDa protein as normally seen at fertilization. Of the successfully injected oocytes 51.7% (105/203) cleaved and 2.0% (4/203) developed to the blastocyst stage after being cultured for 7 days in NCSU 23 medium. Injection of the carrier medium could not trigger these changes. The results indicate that the sperm might activate porcine oocytes by introducing a soluble factor into the oocyte's cytoplasm after gamete fusion.
    Molecular Reproduction and Development 12/2000; 57(3):290-5. · 2.81 Impact Factor