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Michele D Calder, Patricia H Watson, and Andrew J Watson

During oogenesis, mammalian oocytes accumulate maternal mRNAs that support the embryo until embryonic genome activation. RNA-binding proteins (RBP) may regulate the stability and turnover of maternal and embryonic mRNAs. We hypothesised that varying embryo culture conditions, such as culture medium, oxygen tension and MAPK inhibition, affects regulation of RBPs and their targets during preimplantation development. STAU1, ELAVL1, KHSRP and ZFP36 proteins and mRNAs were detected throughout mouse preimplantation development, whereas Elavl2 mRNA decreased after the two-cell stage. Potential target mRNAs of RBP regulation, Gclc, Slc2a1 and Slc7a1 were detected during mouse preimplantation development. Gclc mRNA was significantly elevated in embryos cultured in Whitten's medium compared with embryos cultured in KSOMaa, and Gclc mRNA was elevated under high-oxygen conditions. Inhibition of the p38 MAPK pathway reduced Slc7a1 mRNA expression while inhibition of ERK increased Slc2a1 mRNA expression. The half-lives of the potential RBP mRNA targets are not regulated in parallel; Slc2a1 mRNA displayed the longest half-life. Our results indicate that mRNAs and proteins encoding five RBPs are present during preimplantation development and more importantly, demonstrate that expression of RBP target mRNAs are regulated by culture medium, gas atmosphere and MAPK pathways.

Free access

Veronique Duranthon, Andrew J Watson, and Patrick Lonergan

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.

Free access

Pavneesh Madan, Michele D Calder, and Andrew J Watson

Blastocyst formation, as a critical period during development, is an effective indicator of embryonic health and reproductive efficiency. Out of a number of mechanisms underlying blastocyst formation, highly conserved mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling has emerged as a major mechanism involved in regulating murine preimplantation embryo development. The objective of our study was to ascertain the role of MAPK signaling in regulating bovine development to the blastocyst stage. Using reverse transcriptase PCR and immunohistochemical staining procedures we have demonstrated that mRNA transcripts and polypeptides encoding p38 MAPK pathway constituents are detectable in preimplantation bovine embryos from the one-cell to the blastocyst stage. Further, the effects on bovine embryo development following inhibition of p38 α/β and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling by treatment with SB220025 and U0126, respectively, were investigated. Eight-cell bovine embryos (50 per group; three replicates) were placed into treatments consisting of synthetic oviductal fluid (SOF) medium: SOF + SB202474 (inactive analogue), SOF + SB220025, SOF + U0124 (inactive analogue), SOF + U0126, and SOF + SB220025 + U0126. Inhibition of p38 MAPK or ERK signaling individually did not affect development to the blastocyst stage. However, when both pathways were blocked simultaneously there was a significant reduction (P < 0.05) in blastocyst formation, cell number and immunofluorescence of phosphorylated downstream pathway constituents. We have determined that, in variance to what was observed during murine preimplantation development, bovine early embryos progress at normal frequencies to the blastocyst stage in the presence of p38 MAPK inhibitors.

Open access

Michele D Calder, Robert Chen, Anastasia MacDonald, Zoe MacNeily, Zuleika Chin Lai Leung, Samira Adus, Shiyu Cui, Dean H Betts, Basim Abu Rafea, and Andrew J Watson

As obese and overweight patients commonly display hyperlipidemia and are increasingly accessing fertility clinics for their conception needs, our studies are directed at understanding the effects of hyperlipidemia on early pregnancy. We have focused on investigating palmitic acid (PA) and oleic acid (OA) treatment alone and in combination from the mouse two-cell stage embryos as a model for understanding their effects on the mammalian preimplantation embryo. We recently reported that PA exerts a negative effect on mouse two-cell progression to the blastocyst stage, whereas OA co-treatment reverses that negative effect. In the present study, we hypothesized that PA treatment of mouse embryos would disrupt proper localization of cell fate determining and blastocyst formation gene products and that co-treatment with OA would reverse these effects. Our results demonstrate that PA treatment significantly (P  < 0.05) reduces blastocyst development and cell number but did not prevent nuclear localization of YAP in outer cells. PA treatment significantly reduced the number of OCT4+ and CDX2+ nuclei. PA-treated embryos had lower expression of blastocyst formation proteins (E-cadherin, ZO-1 and Na/K-ATPase alpha1 subunit). Importantly, co-treatment of embryos with OA reversed PA-induced effects on blastocyst development and increased inner cell mass (ICM) and trophectoderm (TE) cell numbers and expression of blastocyst formation proteins. Our findings demonstrate that PA treatment does not impede cell fate gene localization but does disrupt proper blastocyst formation gene localization during mouse preimplantation development. OA treatment is protective and reverses PA’s detrimental effects. The results advance our understanding of the impact of FFA exposure on mammalian preimplantation development.