Article

Gene expression during the oocyte-to-embryo transition in mammals.

The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine 04609, USA.
Molecular Reproduction and Development (Impact Factor: 2.81). 05/2009; 76(9):805-18. DOI: 10.1002/mrd.21038
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The seminal question in modern developmental biology is the origins of new life arising from the unification of sperm and egg. The roots of this question begin from 19th to 20th century embryologists studying fertilization and embryogenesis. Although the revolution of molecular biology has yielded significant insight into the complexity of this process, the overall orchestration of genes, molecules, and cells is still not fully formed. Early mammalian development, specifically the oocyte-to-embryo transition, is essentially under "maternal command" from factors deposited in the cytoplasm during oocyte growth, independent of de novo transcription from the nascent embryo. Many of the advances in understanding this developmental period occurred in tandem with application of new methods and techniques from molecular biology, from protein electrophoresis to sequencing and assemblies of whole genomes. From this bed of knowledge, it appears that precise control of mRNA translation is a key regulator coordinating the molecular and cellular events occurring during oocyte-to-embryo transition. Notably, oocyte transcriptomes share, yet retain some uniqueness, common genetic motifs among all chordates. The common genetic motifs typically define fundamental processes critical for cellular maintenance, whereas the unique genetic features may be a source of variation and a substrate for sexual selection, genetic drift, or gene flow. One purpose for this complex interplay among genes, proteins, and cells may allow for evolution to transform and act upon the underlying processes, at molecular, structural and organismal levels, to increase diversity, which is the ultimate goal of sexual reproduction.

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