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Open Access Research

Analysis of cat oocyte activation methods for the generation of feline disease models by nuclear transfer

Chunmin Wang1, William F Swanson2, Jason R Herrick23, Kiho Lee1 and Zoltan Machaty1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

2 Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Cincinnati, OH 45220, USA

3 College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61802, USA

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Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 2009, 7:148  doi:10.1186/1477-7827-7-148

Published: 11 December 2009

Abstract

Background

Somatic cell nuclear transfer in cats offers a useful tool for the generation of valuable research models. However, low birth rates after nuclear transfer hamper exploitation of the full potential of the technology. Poor embryo development after activation of the reconstructed oocytes seems to be responsible, at least in part, for the low efficiency. The objective of this study was to characterize the response of cat oocytes to various stimuli in order to fine-tune existing and possibly develop new activation methods for the generation of cat disease models by somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Methods

First, changes in the intracellular free calcium concentration [Ca2+]i in the oocytes induced by a number of artificial stimuli were characterized. The stimuli included electroporation, ethanol, ionomycin, thimerosal, strontium-chloride and sodium (Na+)-free medium. The potential of the most promising treatments (with or without subsequent incubation in the presence of cycloheximide and cytochalasin B) to stimulate oocyte activation and support development of the resultant parthenogenetic embryos was then evaluated. Finally, the most effective methods were selected to activate oocytes reconstructed during nuclear transfer with fibroblasts from mucopolysaccharidosis I- and alpha-mannosidosis-affected cats.

Results

All treatments were able to elicit a [Ca2+]i elevation in the ooplasm with various characteristics. Pronuclear formation and development up to the blastocyst stage was most efficiently triggered by electroporation (60.5 +/- 2.9 and 11.5 +/- 1.7%) and the combined thimerosal/DTT treatment (67.7 +/- 1.8 and 10.6 +/- 1.9%); incubation of the stimulated oocytes with cycloheximide and cytochalasin B had a positive effect on embryo development. When these two methods were used to activate oocytes reconstructed during nuclear transfer, up to 84.9% of the reconstructed oocytes cleaved. When the 2 to 4-cell embryos (a total of 220) were transferred into 19 recipient females, 4 animals became pregnant. All of the fetuses developed from oocytes activated by electroporation followed by cycloheximide and cytochalasin B incubation; no fetal development was detected as a result of thimerosal/DTT activation. Although heartbeats were detected in two of the cloned fetuses, no term development occurred.

Conclusion

Electroporation proved to be the most effective method for the activation of cat oocytes reconstructed by nuclear transfer. The combined thimerosal/DTT treatment followed by cycloheximide and cytochalasin B incubation triggered development effectively to the blastocyst stage; whether it is a viable option to stimulate term development of cloned cat embryos needs further investigations.