Journal of animal science
Efforts have intensified to successfully mature and inseminate oocytes in vitro and then culture ensuing embryos to transferable stages from a large number of mammalian species. Success varies, but generally even for the most successful species it is only possible to obtain a maximum of a 40 to 50% development of zygotes to the blastocyst stage. Reduced oocyte developmental competence is suggested as a primary reason for the reduced potential of in vitro-produced embryos. The vast majority of in vitro-matured oocytes are meiotically competent; however, many do not attain an optimal oocyte diameter before insemination. Variations in oocyte in vitro maturation media can influence embryo development, blastocyst cell number, and apoptosis. In addition, studies have indicated that cytoplasmic donation from so-called competent to incompetent oocytes can improve developmental outcomes. Oocyte cytoplasmic maturation includes those events that instill upon the oocyte a capacity to complete nuclear maturation, insemination, early embryogenesis and thus provide a foundation for implantation, initiation of pregnancy, and normal fetal development. Although we can define oocyte cytoplasmic maturation, we are only now beginning to understand the molecular steps that underlie this process. In general terms, oocyte cytoplasmic maturation involves the accumulation of mRNA, proteins, substrates, and nutrients that are required to achieve the oocyte developmental competence that fosters embryonic developmental competence. Collectively we are beginning to specify oocyte cytoplasmic maturation, and eventually a coherent understanding of this critical event in oocyte biology will emerge.