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Isabelle Hue and Jean-Paul Renard

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Michel Guillomot, Annick Turbe, Isabelle Hue and Jean-Paul Renard

The high rates of embryonic mortalities which follow in vitro production of ruminant embryos have emphasized the need for increased knowledge of early development. It is likely that early failures in embryonic development and placenta formation involve abnormal differentiation of mesoderm. The aim of this study was to investigate the pattern of expression of two T-box genes known to control the gastrulation process, Brachyury and Eomesodermin, by whole-mount in situ hybridization. To allow a more precise comparison of both expression patterns between embryos, we describe a new staging of pre-implanted ovine embryos by gross morphology and histology from pre-gastrulation stages to the beginning of neurulation. In pre-streak embryos primitive mesoderm cells delaminated in between the primitive endoderm and the epiblast. At that stage, no expression of Brachyury or Eomesodermin could be detected in the embryos. Early expression of both T-genes was observed by the early-streak stages in epiblast cells located close to the presumptive posterior pole of the embryos. Later on, during gastrulation both genes followed a pattern of expression similar to the ones described in other mammals. These observations suggest that other genes, which remain to be identified, are responsible for extra-embryonic mesoderm differentiation in ruminant embryos.

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Jérôme Artus, Isabelle Hue and Hervé Acloque

In ungulates, early embryonic development differs dramatically from that of mice and humans and is characterized by an extended period of pre- and peri-implantation development in utero. After hatching from the zona pellucida, the ungulate blastocyst will stay free in the uterus for many days before implanting within the uterine wall. During this protracted peri-implantation period, an intimate dialog between the embryo and the uterus is established through a complex series of paracrine signals. The blastocyst elongates, leading to extreme growth of extra-embryonic tissues, and at the same time, the inner cell mass moves up into the trophoblast and evolves into the embryonic disc, which is directly exposed to molecules present in the uterine fluids. In the peri-implantation period, uterine glands secrete a wide range of molecules, including enzymes, growth factors, adhesion proteins, cytokines, hormones, and nutrients like amino and fatty acids, which are collectively referred to as histotroph. The identification, role, and effects of these secretions on the biology of the conceptus are still being described; however, the studies that have been conducted to date have demonstrated that histotroph is essential for embryonic development and serves a critical function during the pre- and peri implantation periods. Here, we present an overview of current knowledge on the molecular dialogue among embryonic, extraembryonic, and maternal tissues prior to implantation. Taken together, the body of work described here demonstrates the extent to which this dialog enables the coordination of the development of the conceptus with respect to the establishment of embryonic and extra-embryonic tissues as well as in preparation for implantation.

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Isabelle Hue, Isabelle Dufort, Anaïs Vitorino Carvalho, Denis Laloe, Nathalie Peynot, Séverine Aude Degrelle, Christoph Viebahn and Marc-André Sirard

Embryo transfer in cattle is performed with blastocysts produced in vivo or in vitro using defined media. However, outdated systems such as those that use serum and co-culture remain of interest for research purposes. Here, we investigated the effect of additional culture time on in vitro-produced embryos. Specifically, we compared embryos that formed a blastocoel at different times after fertilisation to those that stayed in culture for up to two additional days with respect to their development in vivo after temporary transfer to oestrus-synchronised recipients. A pre-transfer set (D6, D6+1, D6+2, D7, D7+1, D8) was examined using microarray analyses and correlated with a post-transfer set that included two different days of transfer (D6-T6, D6+2-T8, D7+1-T8, D8-T8). All surviving conceptuses reached primitive-streak stages and filamentous sizes similarly to in vivo (D18) or in vitro controls (D7/T7). The recovery rate differed between D6 and D8 embryos that were immediately transferred (58 vs 25%). With an intermediate survival rate (33%), the D6 embryos with two additional days in culture produced nine times more IFN-tau (IFNT) at D18 than the D6 embryos that were immediately transferred. At the end of culture, D6 and D6+2 embryos displayed the highest number of gene expression differences. Despite a mortality of 40–60%, no signature was detectable in any of the transferred groups that would account for the embryos’ fates. Initially reputed to be beneficial in producing more blastocysts, our culture system of B2 medium plus serum and co-culture generated blastocysts that were distinct from those developed in vivo (D7).

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Séverine A Degrelle, Kim-Anh Lê Cao, Yvan Heyman, Robin E Everts, Evelyne Campion, Christophe Richard, Céline Ducroix-Crépy, X Cindy Tian, Harris A Lewin, Jean-Paul Renard, Christèle Robert-Granié and Isabelle Hue

Axis specification in mouse is determined by a sequence of reciprocal interactions between embryonic and extra-embryonic tissues so that a few extra-embryonic genes appear as ‘patterning’ the embryo. Considering these interactions as essential, but lacking in most mammals the genetically driven approaches used in mouse and the corresponding patterning mutants, we examined whether a molecular signature originating from extra-embryonic tissues could relate to the developmental stage of the embryo proper and predict it. To this end, we have profiled bovine extra-embryonic tissues at peri-implantation stages, when gastrulation and early neurulation occur, and analysed the subsequent expression profiles through the use of predictive methods as previously reported for tumour classification. A set of six genes (CALM1, CPA3, CITED1, DLD, HNRNPDL, and TGFB3), half of which had not been previously associated with any extra-embryonic feature, appeared significantly discriminative and mainly dependent on embryonic tissues for its faithful expression. The predictive value of this set of genes for gastrulation and early neurulation stages, as assessed on naive samples, was remarkably high (93%). In silico connected to the bovine orthologues of the mouse patterning genes, this gene set is proposed as a new trait for embryo staging. As such, this will allow saving the bovine embryo proper for molecular or cellular studies. To us, it offers as well new perspectives for developmental phenotyping and modelling of embryonic/extra-embryonic co-differentiation.