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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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Andrey Pichugin, Daniel Le Bourhis, Pierre Adenot, Gaëtan Lehmann, Christophe Audouard, Jean-Paul Renard, Xavier Vignon, and Nathalie Beaujean

Efficient reprograming of the donor cell genome in nuclear transfer (NT) embryos is linked to the ability of the embryos to sustain full-term development. As the nuclear architecture has recently emerged as a key factor in the regulation of gene expression, we questioned whether early bovine embryos obtained from transfer of cultured fibroblasts into enucleated oocytes would adopt an embryo-like nuclear organization. We studied the dynamics of constitutive heterochromatin in the stages prior to embryonic genome activation by distribution analysis of heterochromatin protein CBX1 (HP1), centromeric proteins CENPA and CENPB, and histone H3 three-methylated at lysine 9. Then we applied descriptive, quantitative, and co-localization analyses. A dramatic reorganization of heterochromatic blocks of somatic donor cells was first observed in the late one-cell stage NT embryos. Then at two- and four-cell stages, we found two types of NT embryos: one displaying noncondensed heterochromatin patches similar to IVF embryos, whereas the second type displayed condensed heterochromatin blocks, normally observed in IVF embryos only after the eight-cell stage. These analyses discriminate for the first time two contrasted types of nuclear organization in NT embryos, which may correspond to different functional states of the nuclei. The relationship with the somatic nucleus reprograming efficiency is discussed.

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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.

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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.