Background: Heavy metal cadmium (Cd) is a widespread environmental contaminant with a potential toxicity that might negatively affect female reproduction and fertility. It has been reported that Cd exposure impaired the quality of oocytes and led to a defective maturation and fertilization, through oxidative stress induction. Resveratrol (Res) is a natural polyphenol with strong antioxidant properties that exhibited protective role in preventing oocyte redox homeostasis disruption and quality decline. Here, we explored whether the addition of Res to in vitro maturation (IVM) medium might act as a protection against Cd-induced toxicity on ovine oocyte maturation and fertilization. Firstly, we evaluated the effect of supplementing IVM medium with two different Res concentrations (1 and 2 μmol/L) on nuclear maturation and fertilization of oocytes matured under CdCl2 (2 μmol/L) exposure. Therefore, the concentration of 1 μmol/L Res was selected to analyse intracellular ROS levels, mitochondrial (mt) distribution and activity, chromatin configuration, cytoskeleton morphology, cortical granules (CGs) distribution and mRNA expression of genes associated with cellular response to oxidative stress (i.e. SIRT1, SOD 1, GPX1, GSR, CAT ) in Cd-exposed in vitro matured oocytes.
Results: We found that 1μmol/L Res was effective to recover the reduced oocyte meiotic competence induced by Cd exposure, while treatment with Res, at both tested concentrations, sustained oocyte ability to be normally fertilized and decreased polyspermic fertilization. Moreover, we demonstrated that 1 μmol/L Res mitigated Cd-induced alterations of oocyte cytoplasmic maturation by reducing reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation, preventing mt dysfunction, maintaining the correct meiotic spindle and cortical F-actin assembly and the normal cortical granule distribution as well as up-regulating SIRT1 , SOD1 and GPX1 genes.
Conclusions: Taken together, our findings highlighted the beneficial influence exerted by Res in preventing Cd-induced disturbance of nuclear and cytoplasmic maturation and subsequent fertilization in ovine oocytes. Res treatment may help to establish defence strategies counteracting Cd-induced toxicity on the female gamete.