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Chelsea Marcho, Wei Cui and Jesse Mager

Successful mammalian development requires descendants of single-cell zygotes to differentiate into diverse cell types even though they contain the same genetic material. Preimplantation dynamics are first driven by the necessity of reprogramming haploid parental epigenomes to reach a totipotent state. This process requires extensive erasure of epigenetic marks shortly after fertilization. During the few short days after formation of the zygote, epigenetic programs are established and are essential for the first lineage decisions and differentiation. Here we review the current understanding of DNA methylation and histone modification dynamics responsible for these early changes during mammalian preimplantation development. In particular, we highlight insights that have been gained through next-generation sequencing technologies comparing human embryos to other models as well as the recent discoveries of active DNA demethylation mechanisms at play during preimplantation.

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Wei Cui, Agnes Cheong, Yongsheng Wang, Yuran Tsuchida, Yong Liu, Kimberly D. Tremblay and Jesse Mager

Microspherule protein 1 (MCRS1, also known as MSP58) is an evolutionarily conserved protein that has been implicated in various biological processes. Although a variety of functions have been attributed to MCRS1 in vitro, mammalian MCRS1 has not been studied in vivo. Here we report that MCRS1 is essential during early murine development. Mcrs1 mutant embryos exhibit normal morphology at the blastocyst stage but cannot be recovered at gastrulation, suggesting an implantation failure. Outgrowth (OG) assays reveal that mutant blastocysts do not form a typical inner cell mass (ICM) colony, the source of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Surprisingly, cell death and histone H4 acetylation analysis reveal that apoptosis and global H4 acetylation are normal in mutant blastocysts. However, analysis of lineage specification reveals that while the trophoblast and primitive endoderm are properly specified, the epiblast lineage is compromised and exhibits a severe reduction in cell number. In summary, our study demonstrates the indispensable role of MCRS1 in epiblast development during early mammalian embryogenesis.

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Wei Cui, Chelsea Marcho, Yongsheng Wang, Rinat Degani, Morgane Golan, Kimberly D Tremblay, Jaime A Rivera-Pérez and Jesse Mager

Mediator is an evolutionarily conserved multi-subunit complex, bridging transcriptional activators and repressors to the general RNA polymerase II (Pol II) initiation machinery. Though the Mediator complex is crucial for the transcription of almost all Pol II promoters in eukaryotic organisms, the phenotypes of individual Mediator subunit mutants are each distinct. Here, we report for the first time, the essential role of subunit MED20 in early mammalian embryo development. Although Med20 mutant mouse embryos exhibit normal morphology at E3.5 blastocyst stage, they cannot be recovered at early post-gastrulation stages. Outgrowth assays show that mutant blastocysts cannot hatch from the zona pellucida, indicating impaired blastocyst function. Assessments of cell death and cell lineage specification reveal that apoptosis, inner cell mass, trophectoderm and primitive endoderm markers are normal in mutant blastocysts. However, the epiblast marker NANOG is ectopically expressed in the trophectoderm of Med20 mutants, indicative of defects in trophoblast specification. These results suggest that MED20 specifically, and the Mediator complex in general, are essential for the earliest steps of mammalian development and cell lineage specification.

Free access

Muyun Wei, Ying Gao, Bingru Lu, Yulian Jiao, Xiaowen Liu, Bin Cui, Shengnan Hu, Linying Sun, Shaowei Mao, Jing Dong, Lei Yan, Zijiang Chen and Yueran Zhao

Defective decidualization of human endometrial stromal cells (ESCs) has recently been highlighted as an underlying cause of implantation failure. FK-506-binding protein 51 (FKBP51) has been shown to participate in the steroid hormone response and the protein kinase B (AKT) regulation process, both of which are important pathways involved in decidualization. The objective of the present study was to investigate the potential effects and mechanisms of FKBP51 in the regulation of ESC decidualization. By performing immunohistochemical staining on an endometrial tissue microarray (TMA) derived from normal females, we found that FKBP51 expression was much higher in the luteal phase than in the follicular phase in ESCs. Primary ESCs were isolated from patients to build an in vitro decidualization model through co-culture with medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) and 8-bromoadenosine (cAMP). SC79, a specific AKT activator in various physiological and pathological conditions, and shRNA-FKBP51 were used to examine the roles of AKT and FKBP51 in decidualization. The Western blot and RT-PCR results showed that FKBP51, insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 1 (IGFBP1) and prolactin (PRL) expression increased in ESCs treated with MPA + cAMP; meanwhile, the level of p-Ser473 AKT (p-S473 AKT) decreased and forkhead box protein O1 (FOXO1A) expression increased. Decidualization was inhibited by the AKT activator SC79 and the transfection of FKBP51-shRNA by affecting protein synthesis, cell morphology, cell growth and cell cycle. Furthermore, this inhibition was rescued by FKBP51-cDNA transfection. The results supported that FKBP51 promotes decidualization by reducing the Ser473 phosphorylation levels in AKT.

Open access

Guangdong Li, Xiuzhi Tian, Dongying Lv, Lu Zhang, Zhenzhen Zhang, Jing Wang, Minghui Yang, Jingli Tao, Teng Ma, Hao Wu, Pengyun Ji, Yingjie Wu, Zhengxing Lian, Wei Cui and Guoshi Liu

NLRP (NACHT, LRR and PYD domain-containing proteins) family plays pivotal roles in mammalian reproduction. Mutation of NLRP7 is often associated with human recurrent hydatidiform moles. Few studies regarding the functions of NLRP7 have been performed in other mammalian species rather than humans. In the current study, for the first time, the function of NLRP7 has been explored in ovine ovary. NLRP7 protein was mainly located in ovarian follicles and in in vitro pre-implantation embryos. To identify its origin, 763 bp partial CDS of NLRP7 deriving from sheep cumulus oocyte complexes (COCs) was cloned, it showed a great homology with Homo sapiens. The high levels of mRNA and protein of NLRP7 were steadily expressed in oocytes, parthenogenetic embryos or IVF embryos. NLRP7 knockdown by the combination of siRNA and shRNA jeopardized both the parthenogenetic and IVF embryo development. These results strongly suggest that NLRP7 plays an important role in ovine reproduction. The potential mechanisms of NLRP7 will be fully investigated in the future.