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S L Rodriguez-Zas, K Schellander, and H A Lewin

The characterization of gene-expression profiles in oocytes and embryos is critical to understand the influence of genetic and environmental factors on preimplantation and fetal development. Numerous gene-expression microarray studies using different platforms and species are offering insights into the biological processes extensively represented among the genes exhibiting differential expression. Major advances on understanding the direct relationship between gene expression and developmental competence are being reported. Integration of information across studies using meta-analysis techniques can increase the precision and accuracy to identify expression profiles associated with embryo development. Gene network and pathway analyses are offering insights into gene interactions and expression profiles of embryos. All these advances are cementing the way toward a comparative and systems approach to understanding the complex processes underlying vertebrate development.