The birth of ‘Dolly’, the first mammal cloned from an adult donor cell, has sparked a flurry of research activities to improve cloning technology and to understand the underlying mechanism of epigenetic reprogramming of the transferred somatic cell nucleus. Especially in ruminants, somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is frequently associated with pathological changes in the foetal and placental phenotype and has significant consequences for development both before and after birth. The most critical factor is epigenetic reprogramming of the transferred somatic cell nucleus from its differentiated status into the totipotent state of the early embryo. This involves an erasure of the gene expression program of the respective donor cell and the establishment of the well-orchestrated sequence of expression of an estimated number of 10 000–12 000 genes regulating embryonic and foetal development. The following article reviews the present knowledge on the epigenetic reprogramming of the transferred somatic cell nucleus, with emphasis on DNA methylation, imprinting, X-chromosome inactivation and telomere length restoration in bovine development. Additionally, we briefly discuss other approaches towards epigenetic nuclear reprogramming, including the fusion of somatic and embryonic stem cells and the overexpression of genes crucial in the formation and maintenance of the pluripotent status. Improvements in our understanding of this dramatic epigenetic reprogramming event will be instrumental in realising the great potential of SCNT for basic biological research and for various agricultural and biomedical applications.
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Heiner Niemann, X Cindy Tian, W Allan King, and Rita S F Lee
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.