Vitamin C Enhances the In vitro Development of Porcine Pre-implantation Embryos by Reducing Oxidative Stress


Author’s address (for correspondence): Huayan Wang, College of Veterinary Medicine, Northwest A&F University, 3rd Taicheng Road, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China. E-mail: or


Vitamin C (Vc) is a natural compound supplemented to culture media to guarantee the appropriate reactive oxygen species (ROS) level, as well as protect cells from oxidative damage and apoptosis. The current study was conducted to determine the effects of Vc (0, 2.5, 5, 10, 20 and 40 μg/ml) on the ROS production, developmental ability and quality of in vitro produced porcine parthenotes. The results show that: (i) the ROS levels in the embryos significantly decrease in the Vc-treated groups compared with the control (p < 0.05), (ii) the rates of blastocyst formation and total cell numbers in each blastocyst are significantly higher in the Vc-treated groups than in the control (p < 0.05); the optimum concentration of Vc is 20 μg/ml, (iii) the relative expression of Bcl-xL significantly increases and that of Bax is downregulated after Vc treatment. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labelling analysis indicates that the ratio of apoptotic cells in the blastocyst is also significantly lower in Vc-treated groups (p < 0.05) and (iv) Vc treatment can also increase the expression of the Nanog gene in porcine embryos, with a fivefold increase in 20 μg/ml Vc treatment compared with the control (p < 0.05). Therefore, Vc improves the development of porcine embryos by reducing the ROS levels. Vc addition in PZM-3 medium can decrease the number of apoptotic cells and increase the cell numbers in blastocysts to produce high-quality porcine embryos in vitro.