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Jiaojiao Huang, Hongyong Zhang, Jing Yao, Guosong Qin, Feng Wang, Xianlong Wang, Ailing Luo, Qiantao Zheng, Chunwei Cao, and Jianguo Zhao

Accumulating evidence suggests that faulty epigenetic reprogramming leads to the abnormal development of cloned embryos and results in the low success rates observed in all mammals produced through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). The aberrant methylation status of H3K9me and H3K9me2 has been reported in cloned mouse embryos. To explore the role of H3K9me2 and H3K9me in the porcine somatic cell nuclear reprogramming, BIX-01294, known as a specific inhibitor of G9A (histone-lysine methyltransferase of H3K9), was used to treat the nuclear-transferred (NT) oocytes for 14–16 h after activation. The results showed that the developmental competence of porcine SCNT embryos was significantly enhanced both in vitro (blastocyst rate 16.4% vs 23.2%, P<0.05) and in vivo (cloning rate 1.59% vs 2.96%) after 50 nm BIX-01294 treatment. BIX-01294 treatment significantly decreased the levels of H3K9me2 and H3K9me at the 2- and 4-cell stages, which are associated with embryo genetic activation, and increased the transcriptional expression of the pluripotency genes SOX2, NANOG and OCT4 in cloned blastocysts. Furthermore, the histone acetylation levels of H3K9, H4K8 and H4K12 in cloned embryos were decreased after BIX-01294 treatment. However, co-treatment of activated NT oocytes with BIX-01294 and Scriptaid rescued donor nuclear chromatin from decreased histone acetylation of H4K8 that resulted from exposure to BIX-01294 only and consequently improved the preimplantation development of SCNT embryos (blastocyst formation rates of 23.7% vs 21.5%). These results indicated that treatment with BIX-01294 enhanced the developmental competence of porcine SCNT embryos through improvements in epigenetic reprogramming and gene expression.

Open access

Dengfeng Bi, Jing Yao, Yu Wang, Guosong Qin, Yunting Zhang, Yanfang Wang, and Jianguo Zhao

An efficient mRNA knockdown strategy is needed to explore gene function in cells and embryos, especially to understand the process of maternal mRNA decay during early embryo development. Cas13, a novel RNA-targeting CRISPR effector protein, could bind and cleave complementary single-strand RNA, which has been employed for mRNA knockdown in mouse and human cells and RNA-virus interference in plants. Cas13 has not yet been reported to be used in pigs. In the current study, we explored the feasibility of CRISPR/Cas13d-mediated endogenous RNA knockdown in pigs. KDM5B, a histone demethylase of H3K4me3, was downregulated at the transcriptional level by 50% with CRISPR/Cas13d in porcine fibroblast cells. Knockdown of KDM5B-induced H3K4me3 expression and decreased the abundance of H3K27me3, H3K9me3, H3K4ac, H4K8ac, and H4K12ac. These changes affected cell proliferation and cell cycle. Furthermore, stable integration of the CRISPR/Cas13d system into the porcine genome resulted in the continuous expression of Cas13d and persistent knockdown of KDM5B. Finally, the RNA-targeting potential of Cas13d was further validated in porcine parthenogenetic embryos. By microinjection of Cas13d mRNA and gRNA targeting KDM5B into porcine oocytes, the expression of KDM5B was downregulated, the abundance of H3K4me3 increased as expected, and the expression of embryonic development-related genes was changed accordingly. These results indicate that CRISPR/Cas13d provides an easily programmable platform for spatiotemporal transcriptional manipulation in pigs.