Aggregation is one of the main techniques used to obtain embryonic chimeras. This procedure can be performed with whole or demi-embryos, in different stages of development and produced by in vivo or in vitro systems. However, aggregation efficiency tends to be reduced when using embryos in advanced stages (e.g. morulae and blastocysts). The aim of this work was to evaluate the effect of the agglutinating agent phytohemagglutinin-L (PHA) in the percentage of chimeras produced with in vitro-produced (IVP) bovine embryos. Cumulus–oocyte complexes (COC; 445; quality I and II) were matured in drops of 90 μL of TCM-199 bicarbonate supplemented with 10% of FCS and incubated for 22 to 24 h. Fertilization was performed in TALP-IVF medium for 18 h. Presumptive zygotes were transferred to SOF medium for in vitro culture. Incubation conditions were 38.5°C and 5% CO2 in air. To conduct the manual bisection, embryos were placed into 3-μL microdrops of protein-free HEPES-buffered SOF medium. The bisection was executed with a microblade (Ultra-Sharp Splitting Blade, Bioniche, Bogart, GA, USA) under stereomicroscope (35× magnification). Half-structures were joined and transferred to an embryo reconstruction plate, where they were kept for 3 min in drops containing 500 μg mL–1 phytohemagglutinin-L, before the approximated pairs were transferred to SOF medium in cell aggregation well-of-the-well (WOW) micro-wells to in vitro culture. The structures were randomly allocated and the aggregation was performed between 2 whole (zona free) 8- to 16-cell stage embryos to construct aggregated chimeras in the presence [group (G)1, n = 32] or absence of PHA (G2, n = 34) and between demi-morula and demi-blastocyst with PHA (G3, n = 28) or without (G4, n = 29). The aggregation of structures was evaluated after 24 h. Aggregation rates among the 4 experimental groups and the main effects were analysed by Chi-square or Fisher’s exact test and significance was considered when P < 0.05. Embryo aggregation was higher in group G1 than G2 (75.0 and 50.0%, respectively; P = 0.045). Aggregation rate of demi-embryos was similar either in the presence (G3, 39.3%) or in the absence of PHA (G4, 20.7%; P = 0.16). The presence of PHA significantly increased the aggregation rates of the whole pre-compaction embryos (G1) compared with G3 (75.0 and 39.3%, respectively; P < 0.01). The use of PHA resulted in higher aggregation rates (58.3%) than non-use (36.5%; P = 0.03), whereas the embryonic stage of pre-compaction development (G1+G2) produced a higher rate of aggregation (62.1%) than post-compaction demi-embryos (G3+G4, 29.8%; P < 0.001). We could infer a positive effect of PHA on the aggregation rate of bovine IVP embryos only to the 8- to 16-cell stage of development.
Financial support: FAPESP, Brazil (06/06491-2, 07/07705-9, 09/10679-5, and 09/04888-0).