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Heiner Niemann, X Cindy Tian, W Allan King, and Rita S F Lee

The birth of ‘Dolly’, the first mammal cloned from an adult donor cell, has sparked a flurry of research activities to improve cloning technology and to understand the underlying mechanism of epigenetic reprogramming of the transferred somatic cell nucleus. Especially in ruminants, somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is frequently associated with pathological changes in the foetal and placental phenotype and has significant consequences for development both before and after birth. The most critical factor is epigenetic reprogramming of the transferred somatic cell nucleus from its differentiated status into the totipotent state of the early embryo. This involves an erasure of the gene expression program of the respective donor cell and the establishment of the well-orchestrated sequence of expression of an estimated number of 10 000–12 000 genes regulating embryonic and foetal development. The following article reviews the present knowledge on the epigenetic reprogramming of the transferred somatic cell nucleus, with emphasis on DNA methylation, imprinting, X-chromosome inactivation and telomere length restoration in bovine development. Additionally, we briefly discuss other approaches towards epigenetic nuclear reprogramming, including the fusion of somatic and embryonic stem cells and the overexpression of genes crucial in the formation and maintenance of the pluripotent status. Improvements in our understanding of this dramatic epigenetic reprogramming event will be instrumental in realising the great potential of SCNT for basic biological research and for various agricultural and biomedical applications.

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Mike Diederich, Tamara Hansmann, Julia Heinzmann, Brigitte Barg-Kues, Doris Herrmann, Patrick Aldag, Ulrich Baulain, Richard Reinhard, Wilfried Kues, Christian Weißgerber, Thomas Haaf, and Heiner Niemann

The developmental capacity of oocytes from prepubertal cattle is reduced compared with their adult counterparts, and epigenetic mechanisms are thought to be involved herein. Here, we analyzed DNA methylation in three developmentally important, nonimprinted genes (SLC2A1, PRDX1, ZAR1) and two satellite sequences, i.e. ‘bovine testis satellite I’ (BTS) and ‘Bos taurus alpha satellite I’ (BTαS). In parallel, mRNA expression of the genes was determined by quantitative real-time PCR. Oocytes were retrieved from prepubertal calves and adult cows twice per week over a 3-week period by ultrasound-guided follicular aspiration after treatment with FSH and/or IGF1. Both immature and in vitro matured prepubertal and adult oocytes showed a distinct hypomethylation profile of the three genes without differences between the two types of donors. The methylation status of the BTS sequence changed according to the age and treatment while the methylation status of BTαS sequence remained largely unchanged across the different age and treatment groups. Relative transcript abundance of the selected genes was significantly different in immature and in vitro matured oocytes; only minor changes related to origin and treatment were observed. In conclusion, methylation levels of the investigated satellite sequences were high (>50%) in all groups and showed significant variation depending on the age, treatment, or in vitro maturation. To what extent this is involved in the acquisition of developmental competence of bovine oocytes needs further study.

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Miguel A Velazquez, Klaus-Gerd Hadeler, Doris Herrmann, Wilfried A Kues, Susanne E Ulbrich, Heinrich H D Meyer, Benoît Rémy, Jean-François Beckers, Helga Sauerwein, and Heiner Niemann

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Miguel A Velazquez, Klaus-Gerd Hadeler, Doris Herrmann, Wilfried A Kues, Susanne Ulbrich, Heinrich H D Meyer, Benoît Rémy, Jean-François Beckers, Helga Sauerwein, and Heiner Niemann

The present study investigated the role of IGF1 in lactating lean and non-lactating obese dairy cows by injecting 1 μg IGF1 into the ovaries prior to superovulation. This amount of IGF1 has been linked with pregnancy loss in women with the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and was associated with impaired bovine oocyte competence in vitro. Transcript abundance and protein expression of selected genes involved in apoptosis, glucose metabolism, and the IGF system were analyzed. Plasma concentrations of IGF1 and leptin, and IGF1 in uterine luminal fluid (ULF), were also measured. IGF1 treatment decreased embryo viability in lean cows to the levels observed in obese cows. Obese cows were not affected by IGF1 treatment and showed elevated levels of IGF1 (in both plasma and ULF) and leptin. Blastocysts from lean cows treated with IGF1 showed a higher abundance of SLC2A1 and IGFBP3 transcripts. IGF1 treatment reduced protein expression of tumor protein 53 in blastocysts of lean cows, whereas the opposite was observed in obese cows. IGF1 in plasma and ULF was correlated only in the control groups. Blastocyst transcript abundance of IGF1 receptor and IGFBP3 correlated positively with IGF1 concentrations in both plasma and ULF in lean cows. The detrimental microenvironment created by IGF1 injection in lean cows and the lack of effect in obese cows resemble to a certain extent the situation observed in PCOS patients, where IGF1 bioavailability is increased in normal-weight women but reduced in obese women, suggesting that this bovine model could be useful for studying IGF1 involvement in PCOS.