Two experiments were carried out to study the effect of nutrition on embryo development in two periods in superovulated ewes (Expt 1) and on oocyte developmental capacity during the late follicular phase (Expt 2). In Expt 1, a lower superovulation response in terms of animals ovulating (P < 0.05), ovulation rate per ewe ovulating (P = 0.1) and number of good quality embryos per animal treated (P < 0.07) was noted in ewes fed an ad libitum diet compared with ewes offered control (1.5 times the daily maintenance energy requirements, 1.5 x M) or low energy (0.5 x M) diets. Nutrition also modified the morphological and functional quality of the oocytes and embryos recovered. Thus, 92% of day 4 embryos recovered from ewes offered the control diet were classified as good embryos, compared with 70 and 82% of those recovered from ewes offered the ad libitum and low diets, respectively (P < 0.05). Ewes offered the ad libitum diet had a greater percentage of poorly developed embryos compared with ewes offered the control or low diets (P < 0.05). Ewes fed the low diet tended to have more non-fertilized oocytes than ewes offered the control diet (P = 0.09). Diet of recipient ewes to which good quality embryos were transferred on day 4 did not affect embryo quality, when assessed 12 days later (day 16 of pregnancy). However, recipient diet affected prostaglandin F(2alpha) (PGF(2alpha)) production in vitro, and uterine tissue that originated from recipient ewes on the low diet secreted more PGF(2alpha) relative to uterine tissue that originated from recipients on the control diet (P < 0.05). In Expt 2, fewer total (P < 0.05) and good quality (P < 0.01) oocytes and a lower percentage of good quality oocytes (P < 0.01) were obtained from superovulated ewes offered the ad libitum diet compared with ewes offered the low diet. In addition, cleavage rate tended to be higher (51 versus 35%, P = 0.09) in ewes offered the low diet compared with ewes offered the ad libitum diet. In conclusion, changes in diet can affect the quality of the oocyte and embryo in superovulated sheep. A lower superovulation response and a decrease in the quality of oocytes and embryos indicate that ad libitum diets are highly detrimental for superovulatory programmes when compared with low and control diets. In addition, the results from the present study indicate that a low energy diet during early embryo development increased the uterine production in vitro of PGF(2alpha) which could lead to a poor uterine environment thereby compromising the development of the embryo.
University College Dublin ->