In the dairy industry, the high selection pressure combined with the increased efficiency of assisted reproduction technologies (ART) are leading toward the use of younger females for reproduction purposes, with the aim to reduce the interval between generations. This situation could impair embryo quality, decreasing the success rate of the ART procedures and the values of resulting offspring. Young Holstein heifers (n = 10) were subjected to ovarian stimulation and oocyte collection at 8, 11, and 14 months of age. All the oocytes were fertilized in vitro with semen from one adult bull, generating three pools of embryos per animal. Each animal was its own control for the evaluation of the effects of age. The EmbryoGENE platform was used to compare the DNA methylation status of blastocysts obtained from oocytes collected at 8 versus 14 and 11 versus 14 months of age. Age-related contrast analysis identified 5,787 and 3,658 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in blastocysts from heifers at 8 versus 14 and 11 versus 14 months of age, respectively. For both contrasts, the DMRs were distributed nonrandomly in the different DNA regions. The DNA from embryos from 8-month-old donors was more hypermethylated, while the DNA from embryos from 11-month-old donors displayed an intermediate phenotype. According to Ingenuity Pathway Analysis, the upstream regulator genes cellular tumor antigen p53, transforming growth factor β1, tumor necrosis factor, and hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α are particularly associated with methylation sensitive targets, which were more hypermethylated in embryos from younger donors.
Keywords: DNA methylation; embryo; epigenetics; puberty.
© 2020 Wiley Periodicals LLC.