Equine chorionic gonadotropin influence on sheep oocyte in vitro maturation, apoptosis, and follicle-stimulating hormone receptor and luteinizing hormone receptor expression.
We assessed the effects of equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) on oocyte in vitro maturation (IVM), apoptosis, and follicle-stimulating hormone receptor (FSHR), luteinizing hormone receptor (LHR), and gonadotropin-releasing hormone receptor (GnRHR) expression and mRNA levels. Cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) were recovered from sheep ovaries and pooled in groups, before being cultured in IVM media containing varying eCG concentrations. Maturation and apoptosis rates were then calculated. Expression of FSHR, LHR, and GnRHR mRNA in oocytes was measured using quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Protein levels were ascertained by western blotting. Matured oocytes displayed and released an intact first polar body. Sheep oocyte maturation rates gradually increased as eCG concentration was raised from 0 to 20 µg/mL. Apoptosis rates of eCG-treated oocytes were lower than those of the control group, and were lowest using 20 µg/mL eCG. FSHR, LHR, and GnRHR mRNA expression increased (P < 0.01, P < 0.05, and P < 0.05, respectively, compared to 0 µg/mL eCG) with eCG concentration, being highest following exposure to 20 µg/mL. FSHR and GnRHR protein levels were significantly higher in oocytes administered 20 µg/mL eCG compared with those matured in the absence of eCG. eCG dose positively correlated with FSHR, LHR, and GnRHR mRNA and protein expression. In conclusion, eCG enhances maturation and decreases apoptosis of oocytes undergoing IVM, and heightens FSHR, LHR, and GnRHR expression. Such increased expression may facilitate oocyte IVM. These findings contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms of underlying hormonal control of sheep oocyte IVM, advancing ovine reproductive methods.