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Development of new methods to assess the quality of zebrafish (Danio rerio) ovarian folliclesZampolla, Tiziana (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2009-03)High quality fish oocytes are essential for in vitro maturation (IVM), in vitro fertilization (IVF) protocols, and for use in cryopreservation. It is important to develop methods for assessing oocyte quality for applications in aquaculture, the preservation of endangered species and managing fish models used in biomedical research. The lack of reliable methods of evaluating oocyte quality limits progress in these areas. The present study was undertaken to develop new methods to assess ovarian follicle viability and quality of stage III zebrafish (Danio rerio) ovarian follicles. The methods developed were then applied to study the impact of cryoprotectant and/or cryopreservation procedures. A vital staining procedure, not previously used with zebrafish oocytes, has been investigated. FDA-PI (Fluorescein diacetate-Propidium Iodide) staining was found to be a more sensitive then currently used viability tests and it could also be applied to all ovarian follicles developmental stages. Mitochondrial activity and distribution as biological markers was investigated with the mitochondrial membrane potentialsensitive dye JC-1- (5,5’,6,6’-tetrachloro-1,1’,3,3’-tetraethylbenzimidazolylcarbocyanine iodide). Confocal microscopy, Cryo-scanning and electron microscopy studies were undertaken to determine mitochondria distributional arrangement within the ovarian follicle. This provided new information on zebrafish ovarian follicle structure, and showed that mitochondria exhibited a contiguous distribution at the margin of the granulosa cell layer surrounding stage III zebrafish oocytes. Cryoscanning results showed a polygonal structure of the vitelline envelope, which is reported here for the first time with the mitochondrial distributional arrangement in the granulosa cell layer. Mitochondrial distribution and the evaluation of mitochondrial activity proved to be sensitive markers for ovarian follicle quality, providing more detailed information on cryoprotectant impact. The measurement of ATP levels, ADP/ATP ratio and mtDNA copy number were also undertaken following cryoprotectant exposure. These findings, together with the observation of mitochondrial distribution, suggested that even cryoprotectant treatments that are considered to have little or no toxicity can have a deleterious effect on mitochondrial activity, potentially compromising oocyte growth and embryo development. Therefore, a further optimization of the currently used protocol may need to be considered. The study of organelle distribution and organisation would support in vitro maturation and oocyte development fields, as well as their use as biological markers for quality determination. These findings will contribute to a better understanding of oogenesis/folliculogenesis processes in fish.