The identification of the adipocyte-derived obesity gene product, leptin (Ob), and subsequently its association with reproduction in rodents and humans led to speculations that leptin may be involved in the regulation of oocyte and preimplantation embryo development. In mice and pigs, in vitro leptin addition significantly increased meiotic resumption and promoted preimplantation embryo development in a dose-dependent manner. This study was conducted to determine whether leptin supplementation during in vitro maturation (IVM) to horse oocytes could have effects on their developmental capacity after fertilization by IntraCytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).
Compact and expanded-cumulus horse oocytes were matured in medium containing different concentrations (1, 10, 100, 1000 ng/ml) of recombinant human leptin and the effects on maturation, fertilization and embryo cleavage were evaluated. Furthermore, early developmental expression of Ob and leptin receptor (Ob-R) was investigated by immunocytochemical staining.
In expanded-cumulus oocytes, the addition of leptin in IVM medium improved maturation (74% vs 44%, for 100 ng/ml leptin-treated and control groups, respectively; P < 0.05) and fertilization after ICSI (56% vs 23% for 10 ng/ml leptin-treated and control groups, respectively; P < 0.05). However, the developmental rate and quality of 8-cell stage embryos derived from leptin-treated oocytes (100 ng/ml) was significantly reduced, in contrast to previous data in other species where leptin increased embryo cleavage. Ob and Ob-R proteins were detected up to the 8-cell stage with cortical and cytoplasmic granule-like distribution pattern in each blastomere.