Reproduction 3

Research title:

Driving change: manipulating in vivo and in vitro oocyte quality to overcome the current limits in assisted reproduction in mammals

Tutor: Prof. Alberto M. Luciano, PhD

Co-Tutor: Prof. José Buratini Jr., DVM, PhD, Molecular Ovarian Physiology Laboratory, Department of Physiology, Institute of Biosciences, Sao Paulo State University (UNESP), Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil


Contact details

Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory (ReDBioLab)

Department of Health, Animal Science and Food Safety, University of Milan

Via Celoria, 10 - 20133 Milano, Italy

Phone (+39) 02 503 17969

e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Research Group: Valentina Lodde, Ana Caroline Silva Soares, Federica Franciosi, José Buratini and Alberto M. Luciano



State of the art

Cattle fertility is a priority for economical sustainability of modern dairy and beef farming in Europe, South America and worldwide. In addition, the bovine model is extremely valuable for the development of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) to improve or preserve human fertility. One of the main factors that limit the reproductive outcomes is the poor quality of the female gametes (oocytes) together with the inability of current culture systems to support in vitro oocyte development. Clearly, defining the factors and mechanisms that contribute to oocyte quality is essential for improving female fertility.



Aim of the project

The proposed project aims to study the mechanisms that regulate oocyte development and to identify specific markers of fertility to ameliorate in vitro systems, thus increasing the ART efficiency in mammals. The study will be conducted mainly on in vitro models using micromanipulation techniques, follicle and oocyte culture protocols, in vitro fertilization and embryonic development, along with methods for RNA and protein expression analysis and loss- and gain-of-function approaches, immunofluorescence and live imaging.

The study will include in-silico analysis through meta-analysis of bovine oocyte and embryo transcriptomic data, generated from the collaboration of Redbiolab and the EmbryoGENE Network ( Finally, part of the study will be conducted in vivo through the development of follicular synchronization protocols in B. taurus and B. indicus cows.

The research program will take advantages from the expertise in the field of biology and biotechnology of reproduction in mammals of Dr. Buratini, head of the Laboratory of Ovarian Molecular Physiology of the Department of Physiology of UNESP and Dr. Luciano head of the Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory of UNIMI. Both researchers have a long experience in the field and in the development of biomedical models by utilizing domestic mammals to understand the origins of infertility and to improve ART efficiency. An International Cooperation Agreement (2016-2021) and a Technology Transfer agreement (PCT/2016/90005) are already ongoing between the two institutions.


Required profile

The PhD student will be trained on these techniques and encouraged to develop technical and intellectual independence. The training will also include experimental planning, project development and scientific communication skills. Moreover, the student will have access to an international network of top scientists in the field or reproductive biology, collaborating with the Redbiolab group (see Mobility for international short-term trainings to Sao Paulo State University (UNESP), Botucatu Campus, annual meetings and scientific exchanges is foreseen.


Recent publications of the tutor in the field 


1. Soares AC, Lodde V, Barros RG, Price CA, Luciano AM and Buratini J. Steroid hormones interact with natriuretic peptide C to delay nuclear maturation, to maintain oocyte-cumulus communication and to improve the quality of in vitro-produced embryos in cattle. Reprod Fertil Dev 2017.

2. Gilchrist RB, Luciano AM, Richani D, Zeng HT, Wang X, Vos MD, Sugimura S, Smitz J, Richard FJ, Thompson JG. Oocyte maturation and quality: role of cyclic nucleotides. Reproduction 2016; 152:R143-157.

3. Dieci C, Lodde V, Labreque R, Dufort I, Tessaro I, Sirard MA and Luciano AM. Differences in cumulus cell gene expression indicate the benefit of a pre-maturation step to improve in-vitro bovine embryo production. Mol Hum Reprod 2016; 22:882-897.

4. Franciosi F, Coticchio G, Lodde V, Tessaro I, Modina SC, Fadini R, Dal Canto M, Renzini MM, Albertini DF and Luciano AM. Natriuretic peptide precursor C delays meiotic resumption and sustains gap junction-mediated communication in bovine cumulus-enclosed oocytes. Biol Reprod 2014; 91:61.

5. Luciano AM, Franciosi F, Modina SC and Lodde V. Gap junction-mediated communications regulate chromatin remodeling during bovine oocyte growth and differentiation through cAMP-dependent mechanism(s). Biol Reprod 2011; 85:1252-1259.