The purpose of this study was to observe in vitro-matured equine oocytes with an objective computerized technique that involves the use of a polarized light microscope (PLM) in addition to the subjective morphological evaluation obtained using a classic light microscope (LM). Equine cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs, n = 922) were subjected to different in vitro maturation times (24, 36 or 45 h), however, only 36-h matured oocytes were analyzed using CLM. The 36-h matured oocytes that reached maturity were parthenogenetically activated to evaluate the quality and meiotic competence. Average maturation percentages per session in groups 1, 2 and 3 (24-, 36- and 45-h matured oocytes respectively) were 29.31 ± 13.85, 47.01 ± 9.90 and 36.62 ± 5.28%, whereas the average percentages of immature oocytes per session were 28.78 ± 20.17, 7.83 ± 5.51 and 22.36 ± 8.39% respectively. The zona pellucida (ZP) birefringent properties were estimated and correlated with activation outcome. ZP thickness and retardance of the inner layer of the zona pellucida (IL-ZP) were significantly increased in immature oocytes compared with mature oocytes (P < 0.001 and P < 0.01 respectively). The comparison between parthenogenetically activated and non-activated oocytes showed a significant increase in the area and thickness of the IL-ZP in parthenogenetically activated oocytes (P < 0.01). These results show that the 36-h in vitro maturation (IVM) protocol allowed equine oocytes to reach maturity, and PLM observation of ZP can be used to distinguish mature and immature oocytes as well as activated and non-activated oocytes.
Source: The journal of Reproductive Science