Confocal microscopy was used to image stages of equine zygote development, at timed intervals, after intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) of oocytes that were matured in vivo or in vitro. After fixation for 4, 6, 8, 12, or 16 h after ICSI, zygotes were incubated with α/β tubulin antibodies and human anticentromere antibody (CREST/ACA), washed, incubated in secondary antibodies, conjugated to either Alexa 488 or Alexa 647, and incubated with 561-Phalloidin and Hoechst 33258. An Olympus IX81 spinning disk confocal microscope was used for imaging. Data were analyzed using χ 2 and Fisher's exact tests. Minor differences in developmental phases were observed for oocytes matured in vivo or in vitro. Oocytes formed pronuclei earlier when matured in vivo (67% at 6 h and 80% at 8 h) than in vitro (13% at 6 and 8 h); 80% of oocytes matured in vitro formed pronuclei by 12 h. More (p=0.04) zygotes had atypical phenotypes, indicative of a failure of normal zygote development, when oocyte maturation occurred in vitro versus in vivo (30 and 11%, respectively). Some potential zygotes from oocytes matured in vivo had normal phenotypes, although development appeared to be delayed or arrested. Confocal microscopy provided a feasible method to assess equine zygote development using limited samples.
Keywords: ICSI; confocal microscopy; cytoskeleton; equine; zygote.