Preimplantation development directs the formation of an implantation- or attachment-competent embryo so that metabolic interactions with the uterus can occur, pregnancy can be initiated, and fetal development can be sustained. The preimplantation embryo exhibits a form of autonomous development fueled by products provided by the oocyte and also from activation of the embryo's genome. Despite this autonomy, the preimplantation embryo is highly influenced by factors in the external environment and in extreme situations, such as those presented by embryo culture or nuclear transfer, the ability of the embryo to adapt to the changing environmental conditions or chromatin to become reprogrammed can exceed its own adaptive capacity, resulting in aberrant embryonic development. Nuclear transfer or embryo culture-induced influences not only affect implantation and establishment of pregnancy but also can extend to fetal and postnatal development and affect susceptibility to disease in later life. It is therefore critical to define the basic program controlling preimplantation development, and also to utilize nuclear transfer and embryo culture models so that we may design healthier environments for preimplantation embryos to thrive in and also minimize the potential for negative consequences during pregnancy and post-gestational life. In addition, it is necessary to couple gene expression analysis with the investigation of gene function so that effects on gene expression can be fully understood. The purpose of this short review is to highlight our knowledge of the mechanisms controlling preimplantation development and report how those mechanisms may be influenced by nuclear transfer and embryo culture.
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Veronique Duranthon, Andrew J Watson, and Patrick Lonergan
Bernd Fischer, Pascale Chavatte-Palmer, Christoph Viebahn, Anne Navarrete Santos, and Veronique Duranthon
The renaissance of the laboratory rabbit as a reproductive model for human health is closely related to the growing evidence of periconceptional metabolic programming and its determining effects on offspring and adult health. Advantages of rabbit reproduction are the exact timing of fertilization and pregnancy stages, high cell numbers and yield in blastocysts, relatively late implantation at a time when gastrulation is already proceeding, detailed morphologic and molecular knowledge on gastrulation stages, and a hemochorial placenta structured similarly to the human placenta. To understand, for example, the mechanisms of periconceptional programming and its effects on metabolic health in adulthood, these advantages help to elucidate even subtle changes in metabolism and development during the pre- and peri-implantation period and during gastrulation in individual embryos. Gastrulation represents a central turning point in ontogenesis in which a limited number of cells program the development of the three germ layers and, hence, the embryo proper. Newly developed transgenic and molecular tools offer promising chances for further scientific progress to be attained with this reproductive model species.
Cai-Xia Yang, Zichuan Liu, Renaud Fleurot, Pierre Adenot, Véronique Duranthon, Xavier Vignon, Qi Zhou, Jean-Paul Renard, and Nathalie Beaujean
To investigate the embryonic genome organization upon fertilization and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), we tracked HP1β and CENP, two well-characterized protein markers of pericentric and centromeric compartments respectively, in four types of embryos produced by rabbit in vivo fertilization, rabbit parthenogenesis, rabbit-to-rabbit, and bovine-to-rabbit SCNT. In the interphase nuclei of rabbit cultured fibroblasts, centromeres and associated pericentric heterochromatin are usually isolated. Clustering into higher-order chromatin structures, such as the chromocenters seen in mouse and bovine somatic cells, could not be observed in rabbit fibroblasts. After fertilization, centromeres and associated pericentric heterochromatin are quite dispersed in rabbit embryos. The somatic-like organization is progressively established and completed only by the 8/16-cell stage, a stage that corresponds to major embryonic genome activation in this species. In SCNT embryos, pericentric heterochromatin distribution typical for rabbit and bovine somatic cells was incompletely reverted into the 1-cell embryonic form with remnants of heterochromatin clusters in 100% of bovine-to-rabbit embryos. Subsequently, the donor cell nuclear organization was rapidly re-established by the 4-cell stage. Remarkably, the incomplete remodeling of bovine-to-rabbit 1-cell embryos was associated with delayed transcriptional activation compared with rabbit-to-rabbit embryos. Together, the results confirm that pericentric heterochromatin spatio-temporal reorganization is an important step of embryonic genome reprogramming. It also appears that genome reorganization in SCNT embryos is mainly dependent on the nuclear characteristics of the donor cells, not on the recipient cytoplasm.