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Influence of Culture Medium Composition on Relative mRNA Abundances in Domestic Cat Embryos


Author’s address (for correspondence): Romy Hribal, Leibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), PF 601103, 10252 Berlin, Germany. E-mail:


Different culture conditions have been used to produce domestic cat embryos. As part of the in vitro procedures, the medium composition significantly affects the quality of the embryo development also. Quality assessments based on cleavage kinetics and blastomere symmetry are useful, but embryos also can differ in their relative gene expression patterns despite similar morphological characteristics. The aim of this study was to compare cat embryos produced with two different in vitro culture systems routinely used in two different laboratories [Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Washington D.C., USA (SCBI) and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany (IZW)]. Specifically, relative mRNA expression patterns of critical genes for pre-implantation embryo development were assessed in both conditions. Embryos were produced in parallel in both culture systems by IVF using frozen-thawed ejaculated semen in the United States and fresh epididymal sperm in Germany. Success of embryo development in vitro was recorded as well as relative mRNA abundances [DNA methyltransferases 1 and 3A (DNMT1, DNMT3A), gap junction protein alpha 1 (GJA1), octamer-binding transcription factor 4 [OCT4], insulin-like growth factors 1 and 2 receptors (IGF1R, IGF2R), beta-actin (ACTB)] in pools of days 4–5 morulae by semi-quantitative RT-PCR assay. Percentages of cleaved embryos were similar (p > 0.05) between both culture systems, regardless of the location. OCT4 mRNA abundance was higher (p < 0.05) in embryos derived in the SCBI culture system compared with those from the IZW system when epididymal sperm was used for IVF. No clear correlation between the expression pattern and the culture system could be found for all other genes. It is suggested that OCT4 expression might be affected by the media composition in some conditions and can be the indicator of a better embryo quality.