Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology


D. Paul A , W. Sonnet A , R. Rezsohazy A and I. Donnay A

Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-neuve, Belgium

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 22(1) 159-160
Published: 8 December 2009


HOX genes encode transcription factors known to play a major role in patterning the main body axis of vertebrate embryos from the gastrulation stage onward. A few studies have provided evidence that some HOX genes might be expressed before implantation in mammalian embryos. Translation of maternally inherited transcripts is regulated by modifications of the poly(A) tail length until embryonic genome activation (EGA), occurring during the 4th cell cycle in the bovine. The objective of this work was to establish the expression pattern of various HOX genes and to study the polyadenylation of their transcripts during oocyte maturation and early embryonic development. Pools of 20 bovine oocytes before and after in vitro maturation and 20 in vitro-produced embryos at different stages of development up to the blastocyst stage were collected. Three to 12 pools were used for each stage. RNA was extracted and reverse transcribed (RT) using random hexamers. Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) was performed to establish expression profiles of 4 HOX genes: HOXD1, HOXA3, HOXB9, and HOXC9. Two distinct patterns of expression were observed. First, relative amounts of HOXD1, HOXA3, and HOXC9 were lower in morulae and blastocysts than in oocytes. On the other hand, relative expression of HOXB9 increased between the 5 to 8 cell stage and the morula stage (Mann-Whitney, P < 0.05). Those expression patterns were not modified when embryos were cultured in presence of α-amanitin, a RNA polymerase II inhibitor, indicating the maternal origin of the transcripts until EGA. Total amount of mRNAs, estimated by RT-qPCR with random hexamers, was stable for all studied genes during oocyte maturation. The relative amount of polyadenylated GAPDH mRNAs, estimated by RT-qPCR with poly(dT), decreased greatly in mature oocytes compared with immature oocytes indicating massive deadenylation of those transcripts. The relative amount of polyadenylated HOXC9 transcripts decreased slightly but significantly during oocyte maturation (Mann-Whitney, P < 0.05).The relative amount of polyadenylatedm RNAs corresponding to HOXD1, HOXA3, and HOXB9 was stable during oocyte maturation. This indicates that those transcripts escape the default deadenylation pathways followed by housekeeping genes. This experiment has been repeated 3 to 4 times. In conclusion, we confirmed the presence of HOXD1, HOXA3, HOXB9, and HOXC9 transcripts in bovine oocytes and early-stage embryos. Their role during oocyte maturation and the first stages of embryonic development will be investigated through loss of function studies.

This work is funded by the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (Belgium).

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