Prosurvival effect of cumulus prostaglandin G/H synthase 2/prostaglandin2 signaling on bovine blastocyst: impact on in vivo posthatching development†

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Apoptotic activity is a common physiological process which culminates at the blastocyst stage in the preimplantation embryo of many mammals. The degree of embryonic cell death can be influenced by the oocyte microenvironment. However, the prognostic significance of the incidence of apoptosis remains undefined. Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) derived from prostaglandin G/H synthase-2 (PTGS2) activity is a well-known prosurvival factor that is mainly studied in oncology. PGE2 is the predominant PTGS2-derived prostaglandin present in the oocyte microenvironment during the periconceptional period. Using an in vitro model of bovine embryo production followed by transfer and collection procedures, we investigated the impact of periconceptional PGE2 on the occurrence of spontaneous apoptosis in embryos and on subsequent in vivo posthatching development. Different periconceptional PGE2 environments were obtained using NS-398, a specific inhibitor of PTGS2 activity, and exogenous PGE2. We assessed the level of embryonic cell death in blastocysts at day 8 postfertilization by counting total cell numbers, by the immunohistochemical staining of active caspase-3, and by quantifying terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling signals and apoptosis regulator (BCL-2/BAX) mRNA expression. Morphometric parameters were used to estimate the developmental stage of the embryonic disk and the extent of trophoblast elongation on day 15 conceptuses. Our findings indicate that periconceptional PGE2 signaling durably impacts oocytes, conferring increased resistance to spontaneous apoptosis in blastocysts and promoting embryonic disk development and the elongation process during preimplantation development.

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