Effects of Folic Acid on the Development and Oxidative Stress of Mouse Embryos Exposed to Heat Stress

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The development of mammalian pre-implantation embryos is inhibited by heat stress, and the inhibitory effect is associated with excess reactive oxygen species (ROS). Folate is a nutrient with various physiological functions including antioxidative effects. We first investigated the transcript expression for 10 enzymes in the cycle of folate metabolism (folate–methionine cycle) in mouse embryos at the 1-cell, 2-cell, 4- to 8-cell, morula and blastocyst stages using reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction. All of the transcripts were consistently expressed, except for Mat1a, which was not detected from the 4- to 8-cell stage onward. Next, the effects of folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) on the development and ROS levels of heat-stressed embryos were investigated. One-cell mouse embryos were cultured with or without 1000 ng/ml folic acid basically at 38°C, and in the heat-stressed groups, embryos were exposed to 39.5°C/10 h/day on the first two days of culture. The heat stress significantly (p < 0.05) decreased blastocyst development and cell number and increased ROS levels compared to those in the group not subjected to heat stress; however, among the heat-stressed groups, blastocyst development and cell number were increased and the ROS level was decreased by the addition of folic acid. These results indicate that the mRNA of folate–methionine cycle enzymes are expressed in mouse pre-implantation embryos, suggesting they can independently utilize folate, and the inhibitory effects of heat stress on the development of mouse pre-implantation embryos are ameliorated by folic acid. The ameliorating effects of folic acid may be partly due to its antioxidative property.

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