The nuclear and developmental competence of cumulus–oocyte complexes is enhanced by three-dimensional coculture with conspecific denuded oocytes during in vitro maturation in the domestic cat model
The objective of the study was to assess the efficacy of coculture with conspecific cumulus-denuded oocytes (CDOs) during in vitro maturation in a three-dimensional system of barium alginate microcapsules on the in vitro embryo development of domestic cat cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs). In Experiment I, COCs were cocultured with conspecific CDOs or cultured separately in a 3D system for 24 hr of in vitro maturation, before assessing the meiotic progression. In Experiment II, the in vitro fertilization of COCs and CDOs was carried out with chilled epididymal spermatozoa and the presumptive zygotes were cultured in vitro separately for 7 days in 3D microcapsules before assesment of embryonic development. The results showed that the viability was maintained and that meiosis was resumed in the 3D culture system. The presence of CDOs during in vitro maturation improved the meiotic competence of the COCs, since the proportions of telophase I/metaphase II were higher than that in the groups cultured separately. The enrichment of the maturation system by companion oocytes also enhanced the ability of COCs to develop into embryos, and increased the percentages of morula and blastoycst stages. The COCs cocultured with CDOs developed at higher rates than the COCs cultured separately and the CDOs themselves. The beneficial effects of coculture with conspecific CDOs were presumably due to the paracrine action of some secreted factors that enhanced many molecular patterns related to the complex of cumulus oophorous cells. Further investigations to understand how the 3D microenvironment can influence the features of oocytes and embryos are required.