The ability to successfully cryopreserve mammalian oocytes has numerous practical, economical and ethical benefits, which may positively impact animal breeding programs and assisted conception in humans. However, oocyte survival and development following vitrification remains poor. The aim of the present study was (1) to evaluate the effect of the presence of cumulus cells on the outcome of vitrification of immature (GV) or mature (MII) bovine oocytes, (2) to compare empirical and theoretical vitrification protocols, and (3) to assess the effect of adding ice blockers to vitrification media on survival and development competence of bovine oocytes following vitrification using the Cryotop method. In Experiment 1, cumulus-enclosed and partially-denuded GV and MII oocytes were vitrified in 15% EG+15% Me(2)SO+0.5M sucrose in two steps. In Experiment 2, GV oocytes were vitrified either as above or using theoretical modeling based on permeability and osmotic tolerance characteristics in 30% EG+11.4% trehalose in three steps or 40% EG+11.4% trehalose in four steps. In Experiment 3, GV oocytes were vitrified in media supplemented or not with 1 of 2 ice blockers (21st Century Medicine, Fontana, CA) 1% X-1000, 1% Z-1000 or both in three steps. In Experiment 1, the survival, cleavage and blastocyst rate of cumulus-enclosed oocytes was significantly higher than those of partially-denuded oocytes when vitrified at the GV stage (93.8% vs. 81.3%, 65.8% vs. 47.3%, 11.3% vs. 4.0%, respectively, P<0.05). However, no significant effect of cumulus cover was detected between the two groups when vitrified at MII (93.0% vs. 91.8%, 35.2% vs. 36.8%, 5.0% vs. 4.4%, respectively). Furthermore, cumulus-enclosed oocytes vitrified at the GV stage exhibited significantly higher developmental competence than those vitrified at the MII stage (P<0.05). In Experiment 2, there were no significant differences in the survival, cleavage and blastocyst rate among three protocols (86.0% vs. 92.8% vs. 91.2%, 44.8% vs. 54.4% vs. 45.6%, 5.0% vs. 5.4% vs. 4.0%, respectively). However, cleavage and blastocyst rate were significantly lower (P<0.05) than non-vitrified control oocytes. In Experiment 3, the presence of ice blockers did not alter the cleavage rate or blastocyst development (P>0.05). In conclusion, cumulus-enclosed GV bovine oocytes survived vitrification and subsequently developed at higher rates than MII oocytes using Cryotop method and conventional IVF procedure. Theoretical analysis of permeability characteristics and tolerance limits could not explain the low developmental competence of vitrified oocytes.
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