Aflatoxins are considered as reproductive toxins for mammalian species. Here, we studied the effect of aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) and its metabolite aflatoxin M1 (AFM1) on the development and morphokinetics of bovine embryos. Cumulus oocyte complexes (COCs) were matured with AFB1 (0.032, 0.32, 3.2, 32 µM) or AFM1 (0.015, 0.15, 1.5, 15, 60 nM), then fertilized and the putative zygotes were cultured in an incubator equipped with a time-lapse system. Exposing COCs to 32 µM AFB1 or 60 nM AFM1 reduced the cleavage rate, whereas exposing them to 3.2 or 32 µM AFB1 further reduced the blastocyst formation. A delay was recorded for the first and second cleavages in a dose-dependent manner for both AFB1- and AFM1-treated oocytes. A delay was recorded in the third cleavage in the AFM1-treated group. To explore potential mechanisms, subgroups of COCs were examined for nuclear and cytoplasmic maturation (n = 225; DAPI and FITC-PNA, respectively), and mitochondrial function was examined in a stage-dependent manner. COCs were examined for their oxygen consumption rates (n = 875; Seahorse XFp analyzer) at the end of maturation, MII-stage oocytes were examined for their mitochondrial membrane potential (n = 407; JC1), and putative zygotes were examined using a fluorescent time-lapse system (n = 279; IncuCyte). Exposing COCs to AFB1 (3.2 or 32 µM) impaired oocyte nuclear and cytoplasmic maturation and increased mitochondrial membrane potential in the putative zygotes. These alterations were associated with changes in the expression of mt-ND2 (32 µM AFB1) and STAT3 (all AFM1 concentrations) genes in the blastocyst stage, suggesting a carryover effect from the oocyte to the developing embryos.
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- Aflatoxin B1
- Aflatoxin M1
- Embryo development
- Mitochondrial membrane potential
- Oocyte maturation