Differences in the incidence of apoptosis between in vivo and in vitro produced blastocysts of farm animal species: a comparative study

F.J. Rubio Pomar, K.J. Teerds, A. Kidson, B. Colenbrander, T. Tharasanit, B. Aguilar, B.A.J. Roelen

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153 Citations (Scopus)


The occurrence of pregnancies and births after embryo transfer (ET) of in vivo produced embryos is generally more successful compared to that of embryos produced in vitro. This difference in ET success has been observed when embryos of morphological equal (high) quality were used. The incidence of apoptosis has been suggested as an additional criterion to morphological embryo evaluation in order to assess embryo quality and effectively predict embryo viability. In this study, equine, porcine, ovine, caprine and bovine in vivo and in vitro produced morphologically selected high quality (grade-I) blastocysts were compared for the occurrence of apoptosis in blastomeres. The total number of cells per embryo and the number of cells with damaged plasma membranes, fragmented DNA and fragmented nuclei per embryo were assessed in selected blastocysts by combining Ethidium homodimer (EthD-1), terminal dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) and Hoechst 33342 staining. In general, the level of blastomere apoptosis was low. A higher level of apoptosis was observed in in vitro produced equine, porcine and bovine blastocysts compared to their in vivo counterparts. Interestingly, 4 of the initially selected 29 bovine in vitro produced blastocysts exhibited extensive signs of apoptosis affecting the inner cell mass (ICM), which is not compatible with a viable conceptus. Repeated occurrence of this observation may explain the lower ET outcome of in vitro produced bovine embryos compared to in vivo produced embryos. It is concluded that, although in morphologically high quality blastocysts of several farm animal species a significant difference exists in the percentages of apoptotic cells between in vivo and in vitro produced embryos, the incidence of apoptosis at the blastocyst stage is at such a low level that it cannot reflect the substantial differences in embryo viability that have been described between in vivo and in vitro produced blastocysts following ET. (c) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2254-2268
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • bovine oocyte maturation
  • inner cell mass
  • dna fragmentation
  • developmental capacity
  • embryo-transfer
  • porcine embryos
  • quality
  • culture
  • horse
  • fertilization


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