Journal of reproduction and fertility
This study investigated the effects of quantity and type of diet fed to superovulated donor heifers on molecular and metabolic indices of embryonic development. These effects included the relative abundances of mRNAs for the alpha 1 subunit of Na/K-ATPase and the antioxidant enzyme Cu/Zn-SOD, as well as pyruvate utilization in bovine morulae and blastocysts developed in vivo. Heifers were fed a daily ration of either grass silage and a citrus-beet pulp-based concentrate or grass silage and a barley-based concentrate for 116 days, both at 3 kg per day or ad libitum. In embryos derived from heifers fed the pulp-based diets, the relative abundances of the transcripts were not affected by either day of collection or quantity of diet. In embryos derived from heifers fed the barley-based diets, the relative abundances of the Na/K-ATPase transcripts were also not changed by these main effects, while the relative abundances of the Cu/Zn-SOD transcripts were affected by day of collection and by the quantity of diet. Pyruvate metabolism was affected by day of collection, and was significantly increased in day 8 embryos compared with day 7 and day 6 embryos. Diet quantity did not affect pyruvate utilization, whereas diet type did increase pyruvate metabolism in the barley group when compared with the pulp group. The results of this study show for the first time that molecular and metabolic variations may exist in embryos derived in vivo and developed in donor heifers on nutritional regimens differing in type and quantity. Differences in embryos collected on different developmental days may be attributed to varying cell numbers. Alterations in the relative abundances of the Cu/Zn-SOD transcripts and pyruvate metabolism caused by the quantity of diet fed to the donor animal were likely to have been due to alterations in metabolic end products that accumulate in reproductive tract fluids, whereas differences in embryonic metabolism caused by type of diet are related to the composition of the diet. These findings characterize embryos produced in vivo at the molecular level, indicating that the molecular markers used in the present study can differentiate between populations of embryos produced under different nutritional regimens and determine conditions conductive to the production of good quality embryos.