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J Pineal Res. 2017 Oct;63(3). doi: 10.1111/jpi.12424. Epub 2017 Jun 9.

Melatonin influences the sonic hedgehog signaling pathway in porcine cumulus oocyte complexes.

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Department of Theriogenology and Biotechnology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Internal Medicine, College of Medicine, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.


Melatonin, which is synthesized in the pineal gland and peripheral reproductive organs, has antioxidant properties and regulates physiological processes. It is well known that melatonin affects in vitro maturation (IVM) of oocytes and embryonic development in many species. However, beneficial effects of melatonin on IVM have been explained mainly by indirect antioxidant effects and little information is available on the underlying mechanism by which melatonin directly acts on porcine cumulus oocyte complexes (COCs). Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling is important for follicle development, oocyte maturation, and embryo development, and there may be a relationship between melatonin and Shh signaling. To examine this, we designed three groups: (i) control, (ii) melatonin (10-9  mol/L), and (iii) melatonin with cyclopamine (2 μmol/L; Shh signaling inhibitor). The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of these agents on cumulus expansion, oocyte maturation, embryo development after parthenogenetic activation (PA), gene expression in cumulus cells, oocytes and blastocysts, and protein expression in COCs. Melatonin significantly increased the proportion of COCs exhibiting complete cumulus expansion (degree 4), PA blastocyst formation rates, and total cell numbers, which were inhibited by addition of cyclopamine. Simultaneously, the expression of cumulus expansion-related genes (Ptgs1, Ptgs2, and Has2) and Shh signaling-related genes (Shh, Pthc1, Smo, and Gli1) and proteins (Ptch1, Smo, and Gli1) in cumulus cells was upregulated in the melatonin-treated group, and these effects were also inhibited by cyclopamine. In conclusion, our results suggest that Shh signaling mediates effects of melatonin to improve porcine cumulus expansion and subsequent embryo development.


cumulus expansion; embryo development; in vitro maturation; melatonin; sonic hedgehog signaling

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