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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.

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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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Yanfang Wu, Zhenzi Zuo, Zheng Wang, Hanghang Liu, Qi Zhou, Subi Ren, Xinrui Lan, Yong Zhang, and Yongsheng Wang

In brief

Almost total lack of sperm-borne RNAs is regarded as one of the key factors that leads to the abnormal development of somatic cell nuclear transfer embryo. This paper reveals a need for us to further explore the roles of the paternal regulatory factors on embryonic development in early embryos.


Mature sperm contain both coding and non-coding RNAs, which can be delivered into an oocyte with the sperm at fertilization. Accumulating evidences show that these sperm-borne RNAs play crucial roles in epigenetic reprogramming, cytoskeleton remodeling, embryonic development, and offspring phenotype. Almost total lack of sperm-borne RNAs is regarded as one of the key factors that leads to the abnormal development of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) embryo. bta-miR-183 was found to be highly expressed in bovine sperm and can be delivered into oocytes during fertilization in our previous study, and in this study, EZR was confirmed as a target gene of bta-miR-183 in early embryos by bioinformatics, luciferase, and gain-of-function and loss-of-function experiments. Scanning electron microscopy showed that the density of microvilli on the surface of SCNT embryos was significantly higher than that onin vitro fertilized embryos and was significantly reduced by injection of bta-miR-183 mimic. EZR-siRNA injected into SCNT embryos had a similar effect. This indicated that the lack of bta-miR-183 might lead to abnormal changes in microvilli by downregulating ezrin protein. In addition, gain-of-function studies showed that bta-miR-183 significantly improved developmental competence of SCNT embryo in terms of cleavage (76.63% vs 64.32%, P < 0.05), blastocyst formation (43.75% vs 28.26%, P < 0.05), apoptotic index (5.21% vs 12.64%, P < 0.05), and the trophoblast ratio (32.65% vs 25.58%, P < 0.05) in day 7 blastocysts. Thus, the present study indicated that bta-miR-183 might play crucial roles in the formation of microvilli and embryo development by regulating expression of EZR mRNA.

Free access

Chao Du, John S Davis, Chao Chen, Zan Li, Ye Cao, Hui Sun, Bao-Shun Shao, Yu-Xin Lin, Yong-Sheng Wang, Li-Guo Yang, and Guo-Hua Hua

Fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), a member of FGF family, binds with FGF receptors (FGFR) to initiate biological functions in various somatic cells. However, little is known regarding the role of FGF2/FGFR on oocyte meiosis. In this study, we investigated expression patterns and functions of FGF2/FGFR during in vitro maturation (IVM) of mouse cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs). Among four FGFRs, Ffgr1 was the most abundant in COCs. The transcripts for Fgf2 and Ffgr1 in COCs increased during IVM. Ffgr1 was present in oocytes and cumulus cells, while Fgf2 was present in only cumulus cells. Treatment of COCs with the selective FGFR inhibitor SU5402 blocked oocyte meiotic progression and downregulated expression of Bmp15 and Gdf9. In contrast, supplement of FGF2 promoted oocyte meiotic progression and upregulated Bmp15 and Gdf9 expression. Inhibition of FGFR with SU5402 reduced cumulus expansion and expressions of Ptx3, Has2 and Tnfaip6. Treatment with FGF2 increased Ptx3 and Has2 expression. Inhibition of FGFR had no effect on meiotic progression of denuded oocytes (DOs). However, co-culture of DOs with COCs or supplementation with FGF2 promoted meiotic progression of DOs. Inhibition of FGF2/FGFR signaling also downregulated Ffgr1 expression, while supplemental FGF2 upregulated Fgfr1 expression. Furthermore, inhibition of FGFR in COCs interrupted the c-Mos/MAPK pathway and maturation-promoting factor (MPF), as indicated by downregulation of oocyte c-mos and Ccnb1 transcripts, respectively. Overall, this study suggests that FGF2 produced by cumulus cells, activates a FGF2/FGFR autocrine/paracrine loop within COCs to regulate cumulus expansion and oocyte meiosis. These findings reveal a novel role for FGF2/FGFR signaling during in vitro maturation of COCs.