Optimizing culture conditions lead to the improvement of oocyte developmental competence and additives with anti-oxidative activity in culture media improved embryonic development. Royal jelly (RJ) is a product from the cephalic glands of nurse bees that has considerable health effects.
The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of different concentrations of RJ on the maturation, cleavage, and blastocyst rates and gene expression in the oocyte and cumulus cells during in vitro maturation (IVM) of sheep oocyte. IVM of oocyte was performed in the presence of control (RJ0), 2.5 (RJ2.5), 5 (RJ5), 10 (RJ10), 20 (RJ20), and 40 (RJ40) mg/mL of RJ. Following the maturation period, parthenogenetic activation was carried out in two treatment groups (RJ0 and RJ10) and embryonic development was examined three and eight days thereafter. Moreover, the relative expression of BCL2 and BAX in oocyte as well as BCL2, BAX, HAS2, PTGS2, and STAR in cumulus cells were assessed.
The results indicated that the addition of 10 mg/mL of RJ (90 ± 4.51%) to the maturation medium linearly increased the oocyte maturation rate compared to the control group (57 ± 2.42%), then it remained constant to the RJ40 (93 ± 3.10%) group. The higher RJ concentrations were associated with increased (p < 0.01) cleavage (53.3 ± 1.55% to 82.3 ± 2.82%) and blastocyst rate (15.5 ± 1.16% to 33.8 ± 3.09%) from the RJ0 to the RJ10 group. The relative mRNA expression of BCL2 and BAX in the oocyte was higher at RJ10. In cumulus cells, the expression of BCL2 was not affected, but that of BAX decreased, and expression of HAS2, PTGS2, and STAR were increased following the addition of RJ to the maturation media.
In conclusion, the addition of 10 mg/mL of RJ to maturation medium improved blastocyst formation and decreased the apoptotic incidence in sheep cumulus cells and the oocyte during the in vitro development.