Oxidative stress is known as a major contributing factor involved in oocyte aging, which negatively affects oocyte quality and development after fertilization. Melatonin is an effective free radical scavenger and its metabolites AFMK and AMK are powerful detoxifiers that eliminate free radicals.
In this study, we used porcine oocytes to test the hypothesis that melatonin could scavenge free radicals produced during oocyte aging, thereby maintaining oocyte quality. We compared reactive oxygen species levels, apoptosis levels, mitochondrial membrane potential ratios, total glutathione contents and expression levels in fresh, aged and melatonin-treated aged porcine oocytes and observed the percentage of blastocyst formation following parthenogenetic activation.
We found that melatonin could effectively maintain the morphology of oocytes observed in control oocytes, alleviate oxidative stress, markedly decrease early apoptosis levels, retard the decline of mitochondrial membrane potential and significantly promote subsequent embryonic development in oocytes aged for 24 hr in vitro.
These results strongly suggest that melatonin can prevent postovulatory oocyte aging and promote subsequent embryonic development in the pig, which might find practical applications to control oocyte aging in other mammalian species including humans to maintain the quality of human oocytes when performing clinical assisted reproductive technology.