The ratio of male/female embryos may be modified by environmental factors such as maternal diet in vivo and the composition of embryo culture media in vitro. We have used amino acid profiling, a noninvasive marker of developmental potential to compare the effect of sex on the metabolism of bovine blastocysts conceived in vivo and in vitro. Blastocysts were incubated individually for 24 hr in a close-to-physiological mixture of amino acids and the depletion or appearance of 18 amino acids measured using HPLC. Blastocysts were then sexed by PCR. Amino acid depletion by in vitro-produced blastocysts and expanded blastocysts was higher than in embryos conceived in vivo (P=0.02). When cultured in vitro, female embryos exhibited increased depletion of arginine, glutamate, and methionine and appearance of glycine, while male embryos displayed increased depletion of phenylalanine, tyrosine, and valine. Overall, in vitro-produced blastocysts exhibited sex-specific differences in metabolic profiles of 7 out of 18 amino acids; in vivo-produced, in 2 out of 18. These differences had disappeared by the expanded blastocyst stages. We have also shown that amino acid metabolism can predict the ability of bovine zygotes to develop to the blastocyst stage, providing "proof of principle" for the use of this technology in clinical IVF to select single embryos for transfer and thereby avoid the problem of multiple births. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Sturmey, R. G., Bermejo-Alvarez, P., Gutierrez-Adan, A., Rizos, D., Leese, H. J., & Lonergan, P. (2010). Amino acid metabolism of bovine blastocysts: A biomarker of sex and viability. Molecular Reproduction and Development, 77(3), 285-296. doi:10.1002/mrd.21145