Differential Gene Expression Between the Porcine Morula and Blastocyst

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ContentsThe survival and development of pre-implantation embryos are determinant factors affecting the outcome of animal reproduction. It is essential to transfer the expression of the genetic material from maternal sources, that is the ovum to the zygote before implantation to ensure successful development. Differentiation and transformation of blastomeres initiated during the morula and blastocyst stages is an important step of the embryonic development prior to implantation. We collected morula and early blastocyst samples from pure-bred Landrace pigs in vivo to study the differential gene expression patterns at these two stages. Total RNA was extracted from individual embryos and two rounds of amplification were employed. Two micrograms of antisense RNA, targets, were prepared and hybridized with each of four custom made oligo microarrays representing 24 000 porcine genes. The analyses of replicate hybridizations showed that among the 24 000 genes, 162 genes were expressed fivefold or greater in the morula compared to early blastocysts and 2126 genes were expressed fivefold or greater in early blastocysts compared to the morula. Of these differentially expressed genes, 1429 genes were functionally annotated with related human Gene Ontology terms. In addition to basic metabolic processes, genes related to signal transduction, transportation and cell differentiation were found in both stages and were up-regulated as embryo development proceeded. Real time polymerase chain reaction was utilized to quantify 12 genes differentially expressed in the 2 embryonic stages and validated the reliability of major evidences shown in microarrays. In conclusion, we have obtained a preliminary landscape of genes differentially expressed during the transition from morula to early blastocysts in pigs and showed a generally increased transcriptional activity, perhaps in preparation for implantation. Our results provide an opportunity to study the functions of these genes in relation to the development and survival of pre-implantation porcine embryos.

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