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Animal Science

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Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology



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Background: Heat stress (HS) occurs when body heat accumulation exceeds heat dissipation and is associated with swine seasonal infertility. HS contributes to compromised oocyte integrity and reduced embryo development. Autophagy is a potential mechanism for the oocyte to mitigate the detrimental effects of HS by recycling damaged cellular components.

Methods: To characterize the effect of HS on autophagy in oocyte maturation, we utilized an in vitro maturation (IVM) system where oocytes underwent thermal neutral (TN) conditions throughout the entire maturation period (TN/TN), HS conditions during the first half of IVM (HS/TN), or HS conditions during the second half of IVM (TN/HS).

Results: To determine the effect of HS on autophagy induction within the oocyte, we compared the relative abundance and localization of autophagy-related proteins. Heat stress treatment affected the abundance of two well described markers of autophagy induction: autophagy related gene 12 (ATG12) in complex with ATG5 and the cleaved form of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 beta (LC3B-II). The HS/TN IVM treatment increased the abundance of the ATG12-ATG5 complex and exacerbated the loss of LC3B-II in oocytes. The B-cell lymphoma 2 like 1 protein (BCL2L1) can inhibit autophagy or apoptosis through its interaction with either beclin1 (BECN1) or BCL2 associated X, apoptosis regulator (BAX), respectively. We detected colocalization of BCL2L1 with BAX but not BCL2L1 with BECN1, suggesting that apoptosis is inhibited under the HS/TN treatment but not autophagy. Interestingly, low doses of the autophagy inducer, rapamycin, increased oocyte maturation.

Conclusions: Our results here suggest that HS increases autophagy induction in the oocyte during IVM, and that artificial induction of autophagy increases the maturation rate of oocytes during IVM. These data support autophagy as a potential mechanism activated in the oocyte during HS to recycle damaged cellular components and maintain developmental competence.


This article is published as Hale, B.J., Li, Y., Adur, M.K. et al. Characterization of the effects of heat stress on autophagy induction in the pig oocyte. Reprod Biol Endocrinol 19, 107 (2021). doi:10.1186/s12958-021-00791-4.

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