Purpose: We aimed to determine whether embryo culture induces markers of cellular senescence and whether these effects were dependent on culture conditions.
Methods: Murine blastocysts were derived in vitro and in vivo and assessed for 2 primary markers of senescence: senescence-associated β-galactosidase (SA-β-gal) and phosphorylated H2A.X (γ-H2A.X), the latter being a mark of DNA oxidative damage. Expression of senescence-associated genes p21, p16, and interleukin 6 (IL6) were also assessed.
Results: Compared with in vivo–derived blastocysts, in vitro embryos had high levels of SA-β-gal, nuclear γ-H2A.X, and p21 mRNA expression, indicating that a senescence-like phenotype is induced by in vitro culture. To determine the role of culture conditions, we studied the effect of oxygen (5 % vs 20 %) and protein supplementation on senescence markers. Blastocysts in reduced oxygen (5 %) had low levels of both SA-β-gal and γ-H2A.X compared with blastocysts cultured in ambient oxygen. Senescence markers also were reduced in the presence of protein, suggesting that antioxidant properties of protein reduce oxidative DNA damage in vitro.
Conclusion: Elevated SA-β-gal, γ-H2A.X, and p21 suggest that in vitro stress can induce a senescence-like phenotype. Reduced oxygen during embryo culture minimizes these effects, providing further evidence for potential adverse effects of culturing embryos at ambient oxygen concentrations.
- Cellular senescence
- Embryo culture
- In vitro stress
- Oxidative stress