Understanding the establishment of post-fertilization totipotency has broad implications for modern biotechnologies. This review summarizes the current knowledge of putative egg components governing this process following natural fertilization and after somatic cell nuclear transfer.
The mammalian oocyte is a unique cell, and comprehending its physiology and biology is essential for understanding fertilization, totipotency and early events of embryogenesis. Consequently, research in these areas influences the outcomes of various technologies, for example, the production and conservation of laboratory and large animals with rare and valuable genotypes, the rescue of the species near extinction, as well as success in human assisted reproduction. Nevertheless, even the most advanced and sophisticated reproductive technologies of today do not always guarantee a favorable outcome. Elucidating the interactions of oocyte components with its natural partner cell – the sperm or an ‘unnatural’ somatic nucleus, when the somatic cell nucleus transfer is used is essential for understanding how totipotency is established and thus defining the requirements for normal development. One of the crucial aspects is the stoichiometry of different reprogramming and remodeling factors present in the oocyte and their balance. Here, we discuss how these factors, in combination, may lead to the formation of a new organism. We focus on the laboratory mouse and its genetic models, as this species has been instrumental in shaping our understanding of early post-fertilization events.