• During early bovine embryogenesis, the regular establishment of DNA methylation and histone modification patterns is essential for proper gene expression and continuation of embryonic development. Epigenome patterns established during this period, if improperly maintained, can lead to developmental anomalies and may partially explain the lower pregnancy rates of in vitro-produced embryos. We hypothesised that the suppression of translation of the genes euchromatic histone-lysine N-methyltransferase 2 (EHMT2), DNA methyltransferase 3A (DNMT3A), absent, small, or homeotic-like (ASH2L), and SET domain, bifurcated 1 (SETDB1) would provide insightful information on the importance of these genes during early embryonic development in an in vitro setting. In order to define the roles of these genes, small interfering RNA (siRNA) targeting the gene of interest were synthesised and target verified in bovine cell culture using quantitative real-time RT-PCR (RT-qPCR). We acquired matured bovine oocytes from commercial suppliers, followed by IVF by standard laboratory procedures. Eighteen hours post IVF, cumulus cells were removed and zygotes separated into 3 different treatment groups: non-injected controls (CNTL), non-targeting siRNA injected controls (siNULL), and injection with siRNA targeting the gene of interest (si gene target). Each siRNA was mixed with a green fluorescent dextran at a concentration of 20M and ~100pL injected cytoplasmically. The green fluorescent dextran was used to give visual confirmation that zygotes were indeed injected. Post-injection, fluorescent embryos were separated and cultured in Bovine Evolve (Zentih Biotech) medium supplemented with 4mgmL1 of BSA (Probumin, Millipore). Cleavage rates were monitored on Day 2, and only cleaved embryos were cultured further. On Day 8 post-IVF, embryos were morphologically examined and numbers of blastocysts recorded. Mean development rates between siNULL and targeting siRNA were compared using a t-test statistic. Over the course of these experiments the mean blastocyst rate for CNTL zygotes was 34.5%2.6s.e.m. (n=1647). None of the zygotes injected with siEHMT2 (n=1184) or siSETDB1 (n=361) reached the blastocyst stage and these rates differed from the siNULL rate (21.0%2.5s.e.m., n=1587; P<0.05). Morphologically, embryos from both groups developed to the morula stage before they exhibited fragmentation. Injection of siDNMT3A also resulted in significant loss of viability at the 8-cell stage and few zygotes injected (n=1057) developed to blastocyst (2.1%0.5s.e.m.; P<0.001). Inhibiting gene expression of ASH2L showed little variation in blastocyst rate from our siNULL embryos (31.3%2.0s.e.m., n=466 v. 34.8%1.9s.e.m., n=418, respectively, P>0.2). It is unknown at this time if inhibition of ASH2L translation will have effects later in development. Ongoing experiments analysing DNA methylation and histone modifications through immunocytochemistry and global gene expression via RT-qPCR will further explore the establishment and maintenance of these genes in the embryonic epigenome.

published proceedings

  • Reproduction Fertility and Development

author list (cited authors)

  • Snyder, M. D., Pryor, J. H., Peoples, M. D., Williamson, G. L., Golding, M. C., Westhusin, M. E., & Long, C. R.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Snyder, MD||Pryor, JH||Peoples, MD||Williamson, GL||Golding, MC||Westhusin, ME||Long, CR

publication date

  • January 2014