This study was designed to examine the effects of extracellular reduced glutathione on development of pig embryos, produced by in vitro maturation (IVM) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF), in a chemically defined North Carolina State University (NCSU) 23 medium or in NCSU 23 medium with bovine serum albumin (BSA). Microfilament distribution, as a marker of embryo quality, was also examined by immunocytochemical staining and confocal microscopy. When the inseminated oocytes were cultured in the defined medium containing 0-0.5 mM glutathione, blastocyst formation as observed only in the media with glutathione (8.5-16.0%). Increased numbers of blastomeres were observed in the blastocysts as the concentration of glutathione was increased (18.8±7.2 to 31.0±8.6). In NCSU 23 medium with 4 mg BSA/ml, addition of glutathione at concentrations of 0.125-0.5 mM significantly increased the proportions of oocytes that developed to blastocysts (39.2-52.5%) compared with the control (29.5%). However, no difference was observed in the average cell number in the blastocysts (41.9±15.6 to 49.1±15.5). There were no significant differences in the microfilament distribution in the embryos produced in the defined medium and in the BSA-containing medium. These results indicate that pig embryos produced by IVM/IVF can develop to the blastocyst stage in a defined medium. BSA and glutathione have a synergistic effect on pig embryo development.
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