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Biol Reprod. 2012 Aug 9;87(2):34. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.112.100743. Print 2012 Aug.

Male mice produced by in vitro culture have reduced fertility and transmit organomegaly and glucose intolerance to their male offspring.

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  • 1Department de Reproducción Animal y Conservación de Recursos Zoogenéticos, INIA, Madrid, Spain.


It has been reported that suboptimal in vitro culture (IVC) of mouse embryos can affect the postnatal expression of epigenetically sensitive alleles, resulting in altered postnatal growth, organ dimensions, health, and behavior in the offspring. Although these detrimental impacts on the offspring are well described, the relative contribution of the IVC-produced fathers is unclear. In this work, we have analyzed if suboptimal IVC (achieved by altering the culture medium by the addition of FCS) can affect male fertility and if organ size and glucose clearance, two of the adverse effects produced by suboptimal IVC conditions, were transmitted to the next two generations. IVC-produced males had lower sperm concentrations (5.8 × 10(6) spermatozoa in IVC vs. 14.5 × 10(6) spermatozoa in control), and these sperm exhibited decreased overall motility (49.6% vs. 72.8% in control) and progressive motility (22.6% vs. 32.2% in control). Fertility tests demonstrated that the percentage of pregnancies was reduced for IVC males (35% for IVC-produced males vs. 86% for in vivo controls). These features were related to a modified gene expression pattern in adult male testes, showing an altered gene expression in genes involved in DNA repair and apoptosis that was confirmed by TUNEL assay. Regarding the IVC related adverse phenotype transmitted to offspring, male glucose intolerance was shown only in F1 and F2 male but not female offspring. The same occurred with male abnormalities in the organ size of the liver, which were transmitted to F1 and F2 males but not to F1 females; moreover, analysis of the F0, F1, and F2 males revealed greater coefficients of variance in body weight and glucose intolerance than the control group. Finally, we analyzed, through gene silencing, the effect of IVC on the mRNA expression at the blastocyst stage for 11 known gene expression modifiers of epigenetic reprogramming. Suboptimal IVC reduced the expression of Kap1, Sox2, Hdac1, Dnmt1, and Dnmt3a, suggesting a molecular epigenetic role for gene expression modifiers in the origin and transmission of these abnormal phenotypes.

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