Incomplete epigenetic reprogramming is postulated to contribute to the low developmental success following somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Here, we describe the epigenetic reprogramming of DNA methylation at an alpha satellite I CpG site (αsatI-5) during development of cattle generated either by artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) and SCNT. Quantitative methylation analysis identified that SCNT donor cells were highly methylated at αsatI-5 and resulting SCNT blastocysts showed significantly more methylation than IVF blastocysts. At implantation, no difference in methylation was observed between SCNT and AI in trophoblast tissue at αsatI-5, however, SCNT embryos were significantly hyper-methylated compared to AI controls at this time point. Following implantation, DNA methylation at αsatI-5 decreased in AI but not SCNT placental tissues. In contrast to placenta, the proportion of methylation at αsatI-5 remained high in adrenal, kidney and muscle tissues during development. Differences in the average proportion of methylation were smaller in somatic tissues than placental tissues but, on average, SCNT somatic tissues were hyper-methylated at αsatI-5. Although sperm from all bulls was less methylated than somatic tissues at αsatI-5, on average this site remained hyper-methylated in sperm from cloned bulls compared with control bulls. This developmental time course confirms that epigenetic reprogramming does occur, at least to some extent, following SCNT. However, the elevated methylation levels observed in SCNT blastocysts and cellular derivatives implies that there is either insufficient time or abundance of appropriate reprogramming factors in oocytes to ensure complete reprogramming. Incomplete reprogramming at this CpG site may be a contributing factor to low SCNT success rates, but more likely represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of incompletely reprogramming. Until protocols ensure the epigenetic signature of a differentiated somatic cell is reset to a state resembling totipotency, the efficiency of SCNT is likely to remain low.
The birthrate following round spermatid injection (ROSI) remains low in current and evidence suggests that factors in the germinal vesicle (GV) cytoplasm and certain substances in the GV such as the nucleolus might be responsible for genomic reprogramming and embryonic development. However, little is known whether the reprogramming factors in GV oocyte cytoplasm and/or nucleolus in GV are beneficial to the reprogramming of round spermatids and development of ROSI embryos. Here, round spermatids were treated with GV cytolysates and injected this round spermatid alone or co-injected with GV oocyte nucleolus into mature metaphase II oocytes. Subsequent embryonic development was assessed morphologically and by Oct4 expression in blastocysts. There was no significant difference between experimental groups at the zygote to four-cell development stages. Blastocysts derived from oocytes which were injected with cytolysate treated-round spermatid alone or co-injected with nucleoli injection yielded 63.6% and 70.3% high quality embryos, respectively; comparable to blastocysts derived by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), but higher than these oocytes which were co-injected with lysis buffer-treated round spermatids and nucleoli or injected with the lysis buffer-treated round spermatids alone. Furthermore, the proportion of live offspring resulting from oocytes which were co-injected with cytolysate treated-round spermatids and nucleoli or injected with cytolysate treated-round spermatids alone was higher than those were injected with lysis buffer treated-round spermaids, but comparable with the ICSI group. Our results demonstrate that factors from the GV cytoplasm improve round spermatid reprogramming, and while injection of the extra nucleolus does not obviously improve reprogramming its potential contribution, although which cannot be definitively excluded. Thus, some reprogramming factors are evidently present in GV oocyte cytoplasm and could significantly facilitate ROSI technology, while the nucleolus in GV seems also having a potential to improve reprogramming of round spermatids.
Embryogenesis in placental mammals is sustained by exquisite interplay between the embryo proper and placenta. UTF1 is a developmentally regulated gene expressed in both cell lineages. Here, we analyzed the consequence of loss of the UTF1 gene during mouse development. We found that homozygous UTF1 mutant newborn mice were significantly smaller than wild-type or heterozygous mutant mice, suggesting that placental insufficiency caused by the loss of UTF1 expression in extra-embryonic ectodermal cells at least in part contributed to this phenotype. We also found that the effects of loss of UTF1 expression in embryonic stem cells on their pluripotency were very subtle. Genome structure and sequence comparisons revealed that the UTF1 gene exists only in placental mammals. Our analyses of a family of genes with homology to UTF1 revealed a possible mechanism by which placental mammals have evolved the UTF1 genes.
The present study was conducted to generate transgenic pigs coexpressing human CD55, CD59, and H-transferase (HT) using an IRES-mediated polycistronic vector. The study focused on hyperacute rejection (HAR) when considering clinical xenotransplantation as an alternative source for human organ transplants. In total, 35 transgenic cloned piglets were produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and were confirmed for genomic integration of the transgenes from umbilical cord samples by PCR analysis. Eighteen swine umbilical vein endothelial cells (SUVEC) were isolated from umbilical cord veins freshly obtained from the piglets. We observed a higher expression of transgenes in the transgenic SUVEC (Tg SUVEC) compared with the human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC). Among these genes, HT and hCD59 were expressed at a higher level in the tested Tg organs compared with non-Tg control organs, but there was no difference in hCD55 expression between them. The transgenes in various organs of the Tg clones revealed organ-specific and spatial expression patterns. Using from 0 to 50% human serum solutions, we performed human complement-mediated cytolysis assays. The results showed that, overall, the Tg SUVEC tested had greater survival rates than did the non-Tg SUVEC, and the Tg SUVEC with higher HT expression levels tended to have more down-regulated α-Gal epitope expression, resulting in greater protection against cytotoxicity. By contrast, several Tg SUVEC with low CD55 expression exhibited a decreased resistance response to cytolysis. These results indicated that the levels of HT expression were inversely correlated with the levels of α-Gal epitope expression and that the combined expression of hCD55, hCD59, and HT proteins in SUVECs markedly enhances a protective response to human serum-mediated cytolysis. Taken together, these results suggest that combining a polycistronic vector system with SCNT methods provides a fast and efficient alternative for the generation of transgenic large animals with multiple genetic modifications.
Procedures for cryopreserving embryos vary considerably, each having its specific advantages and disadvantages in terms of technical feasibility, embryo survival yield, temperature permissibility and species- or strain-dependent applicability. Here we report a high osmolality vitrification (HOV) method that is advantageous in these respects. Cryopreservation by vitrification is generally very simple, but, unlike slow freezing, embryos should be kept at a supercooling temperature (below –130°C) to avoid cryodamage. We overcame this problem by using an HOV solution containing 42.5% (v/v) ethylene glycol, 17.3% (w/v) Ficoll and 1.0 M sucrose. This solution is more viscous than other cryopreservation solutions, but easy handling of embryos was assured by employing a less viscous equilibration solution before vitrification. Most (>80%) embryos cryopreserved in this solution survived at –80°C for at least 30 days. Normal mice were recovered even after intercontinental transportation in a conventional dry-ice package for 2–3 days, indicating that special containers such as dry shippers with liquid nitrogen vapor are unnecessary. The HOV solution could also be employed for long-term storage in liquid nitrogen, as with other conventional cryoprotectants. Finally, we confirmed that this new vitrification method could be applied successfully to embryos of all six strains of mice we have tested so far. Thus, our HOV method provides an efficient and reliable strategy for the routine cryopreservation of mouse embryos in animal facilities and biomedical laboratories, and for easy and cheap transportation.
Tuberous sclerosis complex 1 (Tsc1) is a tumor suppressor negatively regulating mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). It is reported that mice lacking Tsc1 gene in oocytes show depletion of primordial follicles, resulting in premature ovarian failure and subsequent infertility. A recent study indicated that deletion of Tsc1 in somatic cells of the reproductive tract caused infertility of female mice. However, it is not known whether specific disruption of Tsc1 in granulosa cells influences the reproductive activity of female mice. To clarify this problem, we mated Tsc1flox/flox mice with transgenic mice strain expressing cyp19-cre which exclusively expresses in granulosa cells of the ovary. Our results demonstrated that Tsc1flox/flox; cyp19-cre mutant mice were fertile, ovulating more oocytes and giving birth to more pups than control Tsc1flox/flox mice. Progressive accumulation of corpora lutea occurred in the Tsc1flox/flox; cyp19-cre mutant mice with advanced age. These phenotypes could be explained by the elevated activity of mTORC1, as indicated by increased phosphorylation of rpS6, a substrate of S6 in the Tsc1flox/flox; cyp19-cre mutant granulosa cells. In addition, rapamycin, a specific mTORC1 inhibitor, effectively rescued the phenotype caused by increased mTORC1 activity in the Tsc1cko ovaries. Our data suggest that conditional knockout of Tsc1 in granulosa cells promotes reproductive activity in mice.
Recent studies have shown that telomere length was significantly reduced in placentas collected at delivery from pregnancies complicated by intrauterine growth restriction secondary to placental insufficiency. Placental telomere length measurement during ongoing pregnancies complicated by intrauterine growth restriction has never been reported. This was the main objective of our study.
In our center, late chorionic villus samplings were performed between 18 and 37 weeks of amenorrhea in 24 subjects with severe intrauterine growth restriction (cases) and in 28 subjects with other indications for prenatal diagnosis (controls). Placental insufficiency was assessed by histo-pathological examination. Relative measurement of telomere length was carried out prospectively by quantitative Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization using fluorescent Peptide Nucleic Acid probes on interphase nuclei obtained from long-term cultured villi and with an automated epifluorescent microscope. A quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction technique was performed to confirm the quantitative Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization results. The number of copies of gene loci encoding the RNA template (hTERC) and the catalytic subunit (hTERT) of the enzyme complex telomerase were also estimated in these placentas by Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization.
Mean fluorescence intensity of telomere probes estimated by quantitative Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization was significantly less for cases compared to controls (p<0.001). This result indicated that mean telomere length was significantly reduced in placentas during pregnancies complicated by intrauterine growth restriction. Reduced telomere length was confirmed by the quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction technique. No copy number variation of the hTERC and hTERT loci was noticed for cases, or for controls.
This study clearly demonstrates a reduction of placental telomere length in ongoing pregnancies (from 18 to 37 weeks of amenorrhea) complicated by severe intrauterine growth restriction secondary to placental insufficiency.
To determine the presence of sexual dimorphic transcription and how in vitro culture environments influence X-linked gene transcription patterns in preimplantation embryos, we analyzed mRNA expression levels in in vivo-derived, in vitro-fertilized (IVF), and cloned porcine blastocysts. Our results clearly show that sex-biased expression occurred between female and male in vivo blastocysts in X-linked genes. The expression levels of XIST, G6PD, HPRT1, PGK1, and BEX1 were significantly higher in female than in male blastocysts, but ZXDA displayed higher levels in male than in female blastocysts. Although we found aberrant expression patterns for several genes in IVF and cloned blastocysts, similar sex-biased expression patterns (on average) were observed between the sexes. The transcript levels of BEX1 and XIST were upregulated and PGK1 was downregulated in both IVF and cloned blastocysts compared with in vivo counterparts. Moreover, a remarkable degree of expression heterogeneity was observed among individual cloned embryos (the level of heterogeneity was similar in both sexes) but only a small proportion of female IVF embryos exhibited variability, indicating that this phenomenon may be primarily caused by faulty reprogramming by the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) process rather than in vitro conditions. Aberrant expression patterns in cloned embryos of both sexes were not ameliorated by treatment with Scriptaid as a potent HDACi, although the blastocyst rate increased remarkably after this treatment. Taken together, these results indicate that female and male porcine blastocysts produced in vivo and in vitro transcriptional sexual dimorphisms in the selected X-linked genes and compensation of X-linked gene dosage may not occur at the blastocyst stage. Moreover, altered X-linked gene expression frequently occurred in porcine IVF and cloned embryos, indicating that X-linked gene regulation is susceptible to in vitro culture and the SCNT process, which may eventually lead to problems with embryonic or placental defects.
Parathyroid hormone-like hormone (PTHLH) was first identified as a parathyroid hormone (PTH)-like factor responsible for humoral hypercalcemia in malignancies in the 1980s. Previous studies demonstrated that PTHLH is expressed in multiple tissues and is an important regulator of cellular and organ growth, development, migration, differentiation, and survival. However, there is a lack of data on the expression and function of PTHLH during preimplantation embryonic development. In this study, we investigated the expression characteristics and functions of PTHLH during mouse preimplantation embryonic development. The results show that Pthlh is expressed in mouse oocytes and preimplantation embryos at all developmental stages, with the highest expression at the MII stage of the oocytes and the lowest expression at the blastocyst stage of the preimplantation embryos. The siRNA-mediated depletion of Pthlh at the MII stage oocytes or the 1-cell stage embryos significantly decreased the blastocyst formation rate, while this effect could be corrected by culturing the Pthlh depleted embryos in the medium containing PTHLH protein. Moreover, expression of the pluripotency-related genes Nanog and Pou5f1 was significantly reduced in Pthlh-depleted embryos at the morula stage. Additionally, histone acetylation patterns were altered by Pthlh depletion. These results suggest that PTHLH plays important roles during mouse preimplantation embryonic development.
The arrest of meiotic prophase in mammalian oocytes within fully grown follicles is dependent on cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) regulation. A large part of cAMP is produced by the Gs-linked G-protein-coupled receptor (GPR) pathway. In the present study, we examined whether GPR3 is involved in the maintenance of meiotic arrest in porcine oocytes. Expression and distribution of GPR3 were examined by western blot and immunofluorescence microscopy, respectively. The results showed that GPR3 was expressed at various stages during porcine oocyte maturation. At the germinal vesicle (GV) stage, GPR3 displayed a maximal expression level, and its expression remained stable from pro-metaphase I (MI) to metaphase II (MII). Immunofluorescence staining showed that GPR3 was mainly distributed at the nuclear envelope during the GV stage and localized to the plasma membrane at pro-MI, MI and MII stages. RNA interference (RNAi) was used to knock down the GPR3 expression within oocytes. Injection of small interfering double-stranded RNA (siRNA) targeting GPR3 stimulated meiotic resumption of oocytes. On the other hand, overexpression of GPR3 inhibited meiotic maturation of porcine oocytes, which was caused by increase of cGMP and cAMP levels and inhibition of cyclin B accumulation. Furthermore, incubation of porcine oocytes with the GPR3 ligand sphingosylphosphorylcholine (SPC) inhibited oocyte maturation. We propose that GPR3 is required for maintenance of meiotic arrest in porcine oocytes through pathways involved in the regulation of cAMP and cGMP.
The lack of affordable techniques for gene transfer in birds has inhibited the advancement of molecular studies in avian species. Here we demonstrate a new approach for introducing genes into chicken somatic tissues by administration of a lentiviral vector, derived from the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), into the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) of chick embryos on embryonic day 11. The FIV-derived vectors carried yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) or recombinant alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) genes, driven by the cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter. Transgene expression, detected in chicks 2 days after hatch by quantitative real-time PCR, was mostly observed in the liver and spleen. Lower expression levels were also detected in the brain, kidney, heart and breast muscle. Immunofluorescence and flow cytometry analyses confirmed transgene expression in chick tissues at the protein level, demonstrating a transduction efficiency of ∼0.46% of liver cells. Integration of the viral vector into the chicken genome was demonstrated using genomic repetitive (CR1)-PCR amplification. Viability and stability of the transduced cells was confirmed using terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (dUTP) nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay, immunostaining with anti-proliferating cell nuclear antigen (anti-PCNA), and detection of transgene expression 51 days post transduction. Our approach led to only 9% drop in hatching efficiency compared to non-injected embryos, and all of the hatched chicks expressed the transgenes. We suggest that the transduction efficiency of FIV vectors combined with the accessibility of the CAM vasculature as a delivery route comprise a new powerful and practical approach for gene delivery into somatic tissues of chickens. Most relevant is the efficient transduction of the liver, which specializes in the production and secretion of proteins, thereby providing an optimal target for prolonged study of secreted hormones and peptides.
Integrins constitute a superfamily of transmembrane signaling receptors that play pivotal roles in cutaneous homeostasis by modulating cell growth and differentiation as well as inflammatory responses in the skin. Subrabasal expression of integrins α2 and/or β1 entails hyperproliferation and aberrant differentiation of keratinocytes and leads to dermal and epidermal influx of activated T-cells. The anatomical and physiological similarities between porcine and human skin make the pig a suitable model for human skin diseases. In efforts to generate a porcine model of cutaneous inflammation, we employed the Sleeping Beauty DNA transposon system for production of transgenic cloned Göttingen minipigs expressing human β1 or α2 integrin under the control of a promoter specific for subrabasal keratinocytes. Using pools of transgenic donor fibroblasts, cloning by somatic cell nuclear transfer was utilized to produce reconstructed embryos that were subsequently transferred to surrogate sows. The resulting pigs were all transgenic and harbored from one to six transgene integrants. Molecular analyses on skin biopsies and cultured keratinocytes showed ectopic expression of the human integrins and localization within the keratinocyte plasma membrane. Markers of perturbed skin homeostasis, including activation of the MAPK pathway, increased expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1α, and enhanced expression of the transcription factor c-Fos, were identified in keratinocytes from β1 and α2 integrin-transgenic minipigs, suggesting the induction of a chronic inflammatory phenotype in the skin. Notably, cellular dysregulation obtained by overexpression of either β1 or α2 integrin occurred through different cellular signaling pathways. Our findings mark the creation of the first cloned pig models with molecular markers of skin inflammation. Despite the absence of an overt psoriatic phenotype, these animals may possess increased susceptibility to severe skin damage-induced inflammation and should be of great potential in studies aiming at the development and refinement of topical therapies for cutaneous inflammation including psoriasis.
Conventionally, in vitro–fertilized (IVF) bovine embryos are morphologically evaluated at the time of embryo transfer to select those that are likely to establish a pregnancy. This method is, however, subjective and results in unreliable selection. Here we describe a novel selection system for IVF bovine blastocysts for transfer that traces the development of individual embryos with time-lapse cinematography in our developed microwell culture dish and analyzes embryonic metabolism. The system can noninvasively identify prognostic factors that reflect not only blastocyst qualities detected with histological, cytogenetic, and molecular analysis but also viability after transfer. By assessing a combination of identified prognostic factors—(i) timing of the first cleavage; (ii) number of blastomeres at the end of the first cleavage; (iii) presence or absence of multiple fragments at the end of the first cleavage; (iv) number of blastomeres at the onset of lag-phase, which results in temporary developmental arrest during the fourth or fifth cell cycle; and (v) oxygen consumption at the blastocyst stage—pregnancy success could be accurately predicted (78.9%). The conventional method or individual prognostic factors could not accurately predict pregnancy. No newborn calves showed neonatal overgrowth or death. Our results demonstrate that these five predictors and our system could provide objective and reliable selection of healthy IVF bovine embryos.
The selection of good quality oocytes is crucial for in vitro fertilization and somatic cloning. Brilliant cresyl blue (BCB) staining has been used for selection of oocytes from several mammalian species. However, the effects of differential oocyte selection by BCB staining on nuclear reprogramming and in vivo development of SCNT embryos are not well understood. Immature compact cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) were divided into control (not exposed to BCB), BCB+ (blue cytoplasm) and BCB− (colorless cytoplasm) groups. We found that BCB+ oocytes yielded a significantly higher somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) blastocyst rate and full term development rate of bovine SCNT embryos than the BCB− and control oocytes. BCB+ embryos (embryos developed from BCB+ oocytes) showed increased acetylation levels of histone H3 at K9 and K18 (AcH3K9, AcH3K18), and methylation levels of histone H3 at K4 (H3K4me2) than BCB− embryos (embryos developed from BCB− oocytes) at the two-cell stage. Furthermore, BCB+ embryos generated more total cells, trophectoderm (TE) cells, and inner cell mass (ICM) cells, and fewer apoptotic cells than BCB− embryos. The expression of SOX2, CDX2, and anti-apoptotic microRNA-21 were up-regulated in the BCB+ blastocysts compared with BCB− blastocysts, whereas the expression of pro-apoptotic gene Bax was down-regulated in BCB+ blastocysts. These results strongly suggest that BCB+ oocytes have a higher nuclear reprogramming capacity, and that BCB staining can be used to select developmentally competent oocytes for nuclear transfer.
Sperm-mediated gene transfer can be a very efficient method to produce transgenic pigs, however, the results from different laboratories had not been widely repeated. Genomic integration of transgene by injection of pseudotyped lentivirus to the perivitelline space has been proved to be a reliable route to generate transgenic animals. To test whether transgene in the lentivirus can be delivered by sperm, we studied incubation of pseudotyped lentiviruses and sperm before insemination. After incubation with pig spermatozoa, 62±3 lentiviral particles were detected per 100 sperm cells using quantitative real-time RT-PCR. The association of lentivirus with sperm was further confirmed by electron microscopy. The sperm incubated with lentiviral particles were artificially inseminated into pigs. Of the 59 piglets born from inseminated 5 sows, 6 piglets (10.17%) carried the transgene based on the PCR identification. Foreign gene and EGFP was successfully detected in ear tissue biopsies from two PCR-positive pigs, revealed via in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Offspring of one PCR-positive boar with normal sows showed PCR-positive. Two PCR-positive founders and offsprings of PCR-positive boar were further identified by Southern-blot analysis, out of which the two founders and two offsprings were positive in Southern blotting, strongly indicating integration of foreign gene into genome. The results indicate that incubation of sperm with pseudotyped lentiviruses can incorporated with sperm-mediated gene transfer to produce transgenic pigs with improved efficiency.
Establishment of totipotency after somatic cell nuclear transfer (NT) requires not only reprogramming of gene expression, but also conversion of the cell cycle from quiescence to the precisely timed sequence of embryonic cleavage. Inadequate adaptation of the somatic nucleus to the embryonic cell cycle regime may lay the foundation for NT embryo failure and their reported lower cell counts. We combined bright field and fluorescence imaging of histone H2b-GFP expressing mouse embryos, to record cell divisions up to the blastocyst stage. This allowed us to quantitatively analyze cleavage kinetics of cloned embryos and revealed an extended and inconstant duration of the second and third cell cycles compared to fertilized controls generated by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Compared to fertilized embryos, slow and fast cleaving NT embryos presented similar rates of errors in M phase, but were considerably less tolerant to mitotic errors and underwent cleavage arrest. Although NT embryos vary substantially in their speed of cell cycle progression, transcriptome analysis did not detect systematic differences between fast and slow NT embryos. Profiling of amino acid turnover during pre-implantation development revealed that NT embryos consume lower amounts of amino acids, in particular arginine, than fertilized embryos until morula stage. An increased arginine supplementation enhanced development to blastocyst and increased embryo cell numbers. We conclude that a cell cycle delay, which is independent of pluripotency marker reactivation, and metabolic restraints reduce cell counts of NT embryos and impede their development.
A dominantly inherited syndrome associated with hypopigmentation, heterochromia irides, colobomatous eyes and bilateral hearing loss has been ascertained in Fleckvieh cattle (German White Fleckvieh syndrome). This syndrome has been mapped to bovine chromosome (BTA) 22 using a genome-wide association study with the bovine high density single nucleotide polymorphism array. An R210I missense mutation has been identified within microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) as responsible for this syndrome. The mutation is located in the highly conserved basic region of the protein and causes a negative-dominant effect. SOX10 and PAX3 promoter binding site mutations in MITF could be ruled out as causative for the German White Fleckvieh syndrome. Molecular characterization of this newly detected bovine syndrome means a large animal model is now available for the Tietz syndrome in humans.