Antifreeze proteins (AFPs) non-colligatively lower the freezing point of aqueous solutions, block membrane ion channels and thereby confer a degree of protection during cooling. Ovine embryos following prolonged hypothermic storage were used to determine 1) the type and concentration of a group of AFPs that can confer hypothermic tolerance, 2) the storage temperature, 3) the cooling rate, and 4) the in vitro and in vivo viability. In Experiment 1, Grade 1 and 2 embryos produced following superovulation were either cultured fresh (control) or stored at 4 degrees C for 4 d in media containing protein from 1 of 3 sources: Winter Flounder (WF; AFP Type 1); Ocean Pout (OP; AFP Type 3) at a concentration of 1 or 10 mg/ml; or bovine serum albumen (BSA) at 4 mg/ml in phosphate buffered saline (PBS). Following 72 h of culture, the viability rates were not different between controls (18 21 ); BSA (9 15 ); WF at 1 mg/ml (14 15 ); WF at 10 mg/ml (13 15 ) or OP at I mg/n-d (15 21 ), but were decreased (P < 0.05) in embryos stored in OP at 1 0 mg/ml (I 1 20 ). Pooled data showed higher (P < 0.05) viability rates for WF (27 30 ) than for OP (26 41 ) or BSA (9 15 ). There was no effect of protein source on hatching rates, but mean hatched diameters of embryos were lower (P < 0.05) following storage in BSA. In Experiment 2, Grade I to 3 embryos were either cultured fresh or stored for 4 d at 0 degrees or 4 degrees C in 4 mg/n-d BSA or 1 mg/ml WF. Embryos stored in WF at 4 degrees C (WF/4 degrees C) had comparable hatching rates (8 12 ) to that of controls (10 10 ), but embryos in the other treatments (WF 0 degrees C, 5 11 , BSA 4 degrees C, 6 11 and BSA 0 degrees C, 3 10 ) had significantly lower hatching rates (P < 0.01) compared with controls. Hatched diameters were comparable between controls and embryos stored in WF 4 degrees C, but embryos stored in WF 0 degrees C and BSA at both temperatures had smaller diameters (P < 0.05). In Experiment 3, Grade 1 to 3 embryos were either transferred fresh or were stored for 4 d at 4 degrees C in 4 mg/ml BSA or 1 mg/ml WF at different cooling rates (T1, BSA > 2 degrees C/min; T2, WF > 2 degrees C/min and T3, WF < 1 degrees C/min) prior to transfer. There were no differences in the number of ewes pregnant (T1, 10 1 1; T2, 6 10 and T3, 8 10 ) or in the number of viable fetuses recovered per treatment (T1, 14 25 ; T2, 10 1 4 and T3, 15 2 1) to indicate a negative effect of cooling rate or protein on embryo survival. In conclusion, ovine embryos can be stored in WF or BSA at 4 degrees C for 4 d, yielding similar pregnancy and embryo survival rates as fresh embryos following transfer to recipient ewes.
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