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Xiaoxiao Hou, Jun Liu, Zhiren Zhang, Yanhui Zhai, Yutian Wang, Zhengzhu Wang, Bo Tang, Xueming Zhang, Liguang Sun and Ziyi Li

DNA methylation and histone modification play important roles in the development of mammalian embryos. Cytochalasin B (CB) is an actin polymerization inhibitor that can significantly affect cell activity and is often used in studies concerning cytology. In recent years, CB is also commonly being used in in vitro experiments on mammalian embryos, but few studies have addressed the effect of CB on the epigenetic modification of embryonic development, and the mechanism underlying this process is also unknown. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of CB on DNA methylation and histone modification in the development of parthenogenetically activated porcine embryos. Treatment with 5 μg/mL CB for 4 h significantly increased the cleavage rate, blastocyst rate and total cell number of blastocysts. However, the percentage of apoptotic cells and the expression levels of the apoptosis-related genes BCL-XL, BAX and CASP3 were significantly decreased. Treatment with CB significantly decreased the expression levels of DNMT1, DNMT3a, DNMT3b, HAT1 and HDAC1 at the pronuclear stage and promoted the conversion of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) into 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC). After CB treatment, the level of AcH3K9 was upregulated and the level of H3K9me3 was downregulated. When combined with Scriptaid and 5-Aza-Cdr, CB further improved the embryonic development competence and decreased the expression of BCL-XL, BAX and CASP3. In conclusion, these results suggest that CB could improve embryonic development and the quality of the blastocyst by improving the epigenetic modification during the development of parthenogenetically activated embryos.

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Fei Gao, Jiyu Guan, Limei Liu, Sheng Zhang, Peipei An, Anran Fan, Guangqi Song, Peng Zhang, Tianchuang Zhao, Bo Tang, Xueming Zhang and Ziyi Li

The Wilms' tumour 1 (WT1) gene originally identified as a tumour suppressor associated with WTs encodes a zinc finger-containing transcription factor that is expressed in multiple tissues and is an important regulator of cellular and organ growth, proliferation, development, migration and survival. However, there is a deficiency of data regarding the expression and function of WT1 during oocyte maturation and preimplantation embryonic development. Herein, we sought to define the expression characteristics and functions of WT1 during oocyte maturation and preimplantation embryonic development in pigs. We show that WT1 is expressed in porcine oocytes and at all preimplantation stages in embryos generated by ICSI. We then evaluated the effects of down-regulating WT1 expression at germinal vesicle and early ICSI stages using a recombinant plasmid (pGLV3-WT1-shRNA). Down-regulation of WT1 did not affect oocyte maturation but significantly decreased preimplantation embryonic development and increased apoptosis in blastocysts. These results indicate that WT1 plays important roles in the development of porcine preimplantation embryos.

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Anran Fan, Kuiying Ma, Xinglan An, Yu Ding, Peipei An, Guangqi Song, Lina Tang, Sheng Zhang, Peng Zhang, Wentao Tan, Bo Tang, Xueming Zhang and Ziyi Li

TET1 is implicated in maintaining the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells. However, its precise effects on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and particularly on porcine iPSCs (piPSCs), are not well defined. To investigate the role of TET1 in the pluripotency and differentiation of piPSCs, piPSCs were induced from porcine embryonic fibroblasts by overexpression of POU5F1 (OCT4), SOX2, KLF4, and MYC (C-MYC). siRNAs targeting to TET1 were used to transiently knockdown the expression of TET1 in piPSCs. Morphological abnormalities and loss of the undifferentiated state of piPSCs were observed in the piPSCs after the downregulation of TET1. The effects of TET1 knockdown on the expression of key stem cell factors and differentiation markers were analyzed to gain insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the phenomenon. The results revealed that knockdown of TET1 resulted in the downregulated expression of pluripotency-related genes, such as LEFTY2, KLF2, and SOX2, and the upregulated expression of differentiation-related genes including PITX2, HAND1, GATA6, and LEF1. However, POU5F1, M YC, KLF4, and NANOG were actually not downregulated. Further analysis showed that the methylation levels of the promoters for POU5F1 and M YC increased significantly after TET1 downregulation, whereas there were no obvious changes in the promoters of SOX2, KLF4, and NANOG. The methylation of the whole genome increased, while hydroxymethylation slightly declined. Taken together, these results suggest that TET1 may play important roles in the self-renewal of piPSCs and the maintenance of their characteristics by regulating the expression of genes and the DNA methylation.

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Jian Zhang, Linlin Hao, Qian Wei, Sheng Zhang, Hui Cheng, Yanhui Zhai, Yu Jiang, Xinglan An, Ziyi Li, Xueming Zhang and Bo Tang

Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) has been successfully used for cloning in a variety of mammalian species. However, SCNT reprogramming efficiency is relatively low, in part, due to incomplete DNA methylation reprogramming of donor cell nuclei. We previously showed that ten-eleven translocation 3 (TET3) is responsible for active DNA demethylation during preimplantation embryonic development in bovines. In this study, we constructed TET3-overexpressing cell lines in vitro and observed that the use of these fibroblasts as donor cells increased the blastocyst rate by approximately 18 percentage points compared to SCNT. The overexpression of TET3 in bovine SCNT embryos caused a decrease in the global DNA methylation level of the pluripotency genes Nanog and Oct-4, ultimately resulting in an increase in the transcriptional activity of these pluripotency genes. Moreover, the quality of bovine TET3-NT embryos at the blastocyst stage was significantly improved, and bovine TET3-NT blastocysts possessed more total number of cells and fewer apoptotic cells than the SCNT blastocysts, similar to in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryos. Nevertheless, DNA methylation of the imprinting control region (ICR) for the imprinted genes H19-IGF2 in SCNT embryos remained unaffected by TET3 overexpression, maintaining parent-specific activity for further development. Thus, the results of our study provide a promising approach to rectify incomplete epigenetic reprogramming and achieve higher cloning efficiency.

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Xiaoli Chen, Huabin Zhu, Chuanhuo Hu, Haisheng Hao, Junfang Zhang, Kunpeng Li, Xueming Zhao, Tong Qin, Kan Zhao, Huishan Zhu and Dong Wang

Cryodamage is a major problem in semen cryopreservation, causing changes in the levels of proteins that influence the function and motility of spermatozoa. In this study, protein samples prepared from fresh and frozen–thawed boar spermatozoa were compared using the isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantification (iTRAQ) labeling technique coupled to 2D LC–MS/MS analysis. A total of 41 differentially expressed proteins were identified and quantified, including 35 proteins that were present at higher levels and six proteins that were present at lower levels in frozen–thawed spermatozoa by at least a mean of 1.79-fold (P<0.05). On classifying into ten distinct categories using bioinformatic analysis, most of the 41 differentially expressed proteins were found to be closely relevant to sperm premature capacitation, adhesions, energy supply, and sperm–oocyte binding and fusion. The expression of four of these proteins, SOD1, TPI1, ODF2, and AKAP3, was verified by western blot analysis. We propose that alterations in these identified proteins affect the quality of cryopreserved semen and ultimately lower its fertilizing capacity. This is the first study to compare protein levels in fresh and frozen–thawed spermatozoa using the iTRAQ technology. Our preliminary results provide an overview of the molecular mechanisms of cryodamage in frozen–thawed spermatozoa and theoretical guidance to improve the cryopreservation of boar semen.