[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The earliest cell fate decision in the mammalian embryo separates the extra-embryonic trophoblast lineage, which forms the fetal portion of the placenta, from the embryonic cell lineages. The body plan of the embryo proper is established only later at gastrulation, when the pluripotent epiblast gives rise to the germ layers ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm. Here we show that the T-box gene Eomesodermin 1 performs essential functions in both trophoblast development and gastrulation. Mouse embryos lacking Eomesodermin arrest at the blastocyst stage. Mutant trophoectoderm does not differentiate into trophoblast, indicating that Eomesodermin may be required for the develop- ment of trophoblast stem cells 2 . In the embryo proper, Eomesodermin is essential for mesoderm formation. Although the specification of the anterior-posterior axis and the initial response to mesoderm-inducing signals is intact in mutant epiblasts, the prospective mesodermal cells are not recruited into the primitive streak. Our results indicate that
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the present study, we have analysed the expression pattern of a lacZ transgene (CMZ12) in preimplantation stage mouse embryos. The transgene is expressed at the two-cell stage, where it shows cellular mosaicism due to variable expressivity. The variable gene expression indicates a partial penetrance of the transgene. The extent of variation in expression is influenced by the genetic background of the oocyte. DBA/2 and CFLP genetic backgrounds promote high expression of the transgene, while Balb/c, C57BL/6, DDK, and F1 (C57BL/6 x CBA) genetic backgrounds give none or very little lacZ activity. In vitro culture of one-cell embryos to the two-cell stage induces the expression of lacZ in all strain backgrounds tested. The variation in CMZ12 expression is a transient phenomenon and does not affect later stage activity of the transgene. Nuclear transfer experiments and DNA methylation analysis suggests that a heritable modification of the transgene locus has not occurred.
Biochemistry and Cell Biology 01/2011; 70(10-11):1097-104. · 2.92 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The family of interferon-inducible transmembrane proteins (Ifitm) consists of five highly sequence-related cell surface proteins, which are implicated in diverse cellular processes. Ifitm genes are conserved, widely expressed, and characteristically found in genomic clusters, such as the 67-kb Ifitm family locus on mouse chromosome 7. Recently, Ifitm1 and Ifitm3 have been suggested to mediate migration of early primordial germ cells (PGCs), a process that is little understood. To investigate Ifitm function during germ cell development, we used targeted chromosome engineering to generate mutants which either lack the entire Ifitm locus or carry a disrupted Ifitm3 gene only. Here we show that the mutations have no detectable effects on development of the germ line or on the generation of live young. Hence, contrary to previous reports, Ifitm genes are not essential for PGC migration. The Ifitm family is a striking example of a conserved gene cluster which appears to be functionally redundant during development.
Molecular and cellular biology 09/2008; 28(15):4688-96. · 6.06 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have important roles in diverse cellular processes, but little is known about their identity and functions during early mammalian development. Here, we show the effects of the loss of maternal inheritance of miRNAs following specific deletion of Dicer from growing oocytes. The mutant mature oocytes were almost entirely depleted of all miRNAs, and they failed to progress through the first cell division, probably because of disorganized spindle formation. By comparing single-cell cDNA microarray profiles of control and mutant oocytes, our data are compatible with the notion that a large proportion of the maternal genes are directly or indirectly under the control of miRNAs, which demonstrates that the maternal miRNAs are essential for the earliest stages of mouse embryonic development.
Genes & Development 04/2007; 21(6):644-8. · 12.44 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cdkn1c encodes an embryonic cyclin-dependant kinase inhibitor that acts to negatively regulate cell proliferation and, in some tissues, to actively direct differentiation. This gene, which is an imprinted gene expressed only from the maternal allele, lies within a complex region on mouse distal chromosome 7, called the IC2 domain, which contains several other imprinted genes. Studies on mouse embryos suggest a key role for genomic imprinting in regulating embryonic growth and this has led to the proposal that imprinting evolved as a consequence of the mismatched contribution of parental resources in mammals.
In this study, we characterised the phenotype of mice carrying different copy number integrations of a bacterial artificial chromosome spanning Cdkn1c. Excess Cdkn1c resulted in embryonic growth retardation that was dosage-dependent and also responsive to the genetic background. Two-fold expression of Cdkn1c in a subset of tissues caused a 10-30% reduction in embryonic weight, embryonic lethality and was associated with a reduction in the expression of the potent, non-imprinted embryonic growth factor, Igf1. Conversely, loss of expression of Cdkn1c resulted in embryos that were 11% heavier with a two-fold increase in Igf1.
We have shown that embryonic growth in mice is exquisitely sensitive to the precise dosage of Cdkn1c. Cdkn1c is a maternally expressed gene and our findings support the prediction of the parental conflict hypothesis that that the paternal genome silences genes that have an inhibitory role in embryonic growth. Within the IC2 imprinted domain, Cdkn1c encodes the major regulator of embryonic growth and we propose that Cdkn1c was the focal point of the selective pressure for imprinting of this domain.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Germ cells in XY male mice establish site-specific methylation on imprinted genes during spermatogenesis, whereas germ cells in XX females establish their imprints in growing oocytes. We showed previously that in vitro, sex-specific methylation patterns of pluripotent stem cell lines derived from germ cells were influenced more by the sex chromosome constitution of the cells themselves than by the gender of the embryo from which they had been derived. To see whether the same situation would prevail in vivo, we have now determined the methylation status of H19 expressed from the maternal allele, and the expression and methylation status of a paternally expressed gene Peg3, in germ cells from sex-reversed and control embryos. For these imprinted genes, we conclude that the female imprint is a response of the germ cells to undergoing oogenesis, rather than to their XX chromosome constitution. Similarly, both our XY and our sex-reversed XX male germ cells clearly showed a male rather than a female pattern of DNA methylation; here, however, the sex chromosome constitution had a significant effect, with XX male germ cells less methylated than the XY controls.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2006; 103(30):11184-8. · 9.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The germ cell lineage is a specified cell population that passes through a series of differentiation steps before giving rise, eventually, to either eggs or sperm. We have investigated the manner in which primordial germ cells (PGCs) are reprogrammed in vitro to form pluripotent stem cells in response to exogenous fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2). The response is dependent on time of exposure and concentration of FGF-2. PGCs isolated in culture show a motile phenotype and lose any expression of a characteristic germ cell marker, mouse vasa homolog. Subsequently, some but not all of the cells show further changes of phenotype, accompanied by changes in expression of endogenous FGF-2 and up-regulation of its receptor, fibroblast growth factor receptor-3, in the nucleus. We propose that it is from this reprogrammed component of the now heterogeneous PGC population that pluripotent stem cells arise.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The relationship between germ cells and pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cells is of particular interest, together with approaches to generate primordial germ cell (PGCs) from ES cells. A critical requirement in these experiments is the ability to unambiguously detect PGCs with the use of, for example, reporter genes. The currently available transgenic reporters do not show exclusive expression in PGCs at their earliest developmental stages. Here we describe the use of germline-restricted expression of stella, which is currently the best marker gene for PGCs. We generated two stella-GFP reporters and show that both transgenes surpass other reporters in terms of timing and specificity of expression in PGCs. Additionally, we demonstrate the usefulness of stella-GFP during the derivation of PGCs from ES cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The discovery of the phenomenon of genomic imprinting in mammals showed that the parental genomes are functionally non-equivalent. Considerable advances have occurred in the field over the past 20 years, which has resulted in the identification and functional analysis of a number of imprinted genes the expression of which is determined by their parental origin. These genes belong to many diverse categories and they have been shown to regulate growth, complex aspects of mammalian physiology and behavior. Many aspects of the mechanism of imprinting have also been elucidated. However, the reasons for the evolution of genomic imprinting remain enigmatic. Further research is needed to determine if there is any relationship between the apparently diverse functions of imprinted genes in mammals, and their role in human diseases. It also remains to be seen what common features exist amongst the diverse imprinting control elements. The mechanisms involved in the erasure and re-establishment of imprints should provide deeper insights into epigenetic mechanisms of wide general interest.
Cytogenetic and Genome Research 02/2006; 113(1-4):6-11. · 1.84 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Here we describe a protocol for the detection of the microRNA (miRNA) expression profile of a single cell by stem-looped real-time PCR, which is specific to mature miRNAs. A single cell is first lysed by heat treatment without further purification. Then, 220 known miRNAs are reverse transcribed into corresponding cDNAs by stem-looped primers. This is followed by an initial PCR step to amplify the cDNAs and generate enough material to permit separate multiplex detection. The diluted initial PCR product is used as a template to check individual miRNA expression by real-time PCR. This sensitive technique permits miRNA expression profiling from a single cell, and allows analysis of a few cells from early embryos as well as individual cells (such as stem cells). It can also be used when only nanogram amounts of rare samples are available. The protocol can be completed in 7 d.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of 17-25 nt non-coding RNAs that have been shown to have critical functions in a wide variety of biological processes during development. Recently developed miRNA microarray techniques have helped to accelerate research on miRNAs. However, in some instances there is only a limited amount of material available for analysis, which requires more sensitive techniques that can preferably work on single cells. Here we demonstrate that it is possible to analyse miRNA in single cells by using a real-time PCR-based 220-plex miRNA expression profiling method. Development of this technique will greatly facilitate miRNA-related research on cells, such as the founder population of primordial germ cells where rapid and dynamic changes occur in a few cells, and for analysing heterogeneous population of cells. In these and similar cases, our method of single cell analysis is critical for elucidating the diverse roles of miRNAs.
Nucleic Acids Research 02/2006; 34(2):e9. · 8.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Establishment of pluripotent epiblast cells is a critical event during early mammalian development because all somatic lineages and the primordial germ cells (PGCs) are derived from them. The epiblast and PGCs are in turn the precursors of pluripotent embryonic stem cells and embryonic germ cells, respectively. Although PGCs are specialized cells, they express several key pluripotency-related genes, such as Oct4 and Sox2. We have analyzed Esg1 expression in mouse and human cells and shown that in the mouse the gene is specifically expressed in preimplantation embryos, stem cells, and the germline. Moreover, Esg1 coexpresses with Oct4 and Sox2, confirming its identity as a marker of the pluripotent cycle. Esg1 is also expressed with Oct4 and Sox2 by human embryonic stem cells and in germ cell carcinoma tissue but not by all human embryonal carcinoma cell lines. These data suggest that together with Oct4 and Sox2, Esg1 plays a conserved role in the pluripotent pathway of mouse and human stem and germ cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Germ cell fate in mice is induced in pluripotent epiblast cells in response to signals from extraembryonic tissues. The specification of approximately 40 founder primordial germ cells and their segregation from somatic neighbours are important events in early development. We have proposed that a critical event during this specification includes repression of a somatic programme that is adopted by neighbouring cells. Here we show that Blimp1 (also known as Prdm1), a known transcriptional repressor, has a critical role in the foundation of the mouse germ cell lineage, as its disruption causes a block early in the process of primordial germ cell formation. Blimp1-deficient mutant embryos form a tight cluster of about 20 primordial germ cell-like cells, which fail to show the characteristic migration, proliferation and consistent repression of homeobox genes that normally accompany specification of primordial germ cells. Furthermore, our genetic lineage-tracing experiments indicate that the Blimp1-positive cells originating from the proximal posterior epiblast cells are indeed the lineage-restricted primordial germ cell precursors.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An examination of the protein profiles obtained from preimplantation embryos of mouse, rat, hamster, and gerbil revealed marked species differences in the one-cell fertilized eggs but a striking similarity in the major proteins produced by blastocysts. The early change in protein profile observed in all four species suggests that activation of the embryonic genome before the second cleavage division is a rodent characteristic. The initial marked species differences resulting from putative maternal transcripts could be important in the establishment and maintenance of species integrity.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The maternally expressed/paternally silenced genes Phlda2 (a.k.a. Ipl/Tssc3), Slc22a1l, Cdkn1c, Kcnq1, and Ascl2 are clustered in an imprinted domain on mouse chromosome 7. Paternal deletion of a cis-acting differentially methylated DNA element, Kvdmr1, causes coordinate loss of imprinting and over-expression of all of these genes and the resulting conceptuses show intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). To test the specific contribution of Phlda2 to IUGR in the Kvdmr1-knockout, we crossed Kvdmr1(+/-) males with Phlda2(+/-) females. Conceptuses with the (Phlda2(+/+); Kvdmr1(+/-)) genotype showed fetal and placental growth retardation. Restoration of Phlda2 dosage to normal, as occurred in the conceptuses with the (Phlda2(-/+); Kvdmr1(+/-)) genotype, had a marginally positive effect on fetal weights and no effect on post-natal weights, but significantly rescued the placental weights. As we previously reported, loss of Phlda2 expression in the wild-type background (Phlda2(-/+); Kvdmr1(+/+) genotype) caused placentomegaly. Thus Phlda2 acts as a true rheostat for placental growth, with overgrowth after gene deletion and growth retardation after loss of imprinting. Consistent with this conclusion, we observed significant placental stunting in BAC-transgenic mice that over-expressed Phlda2 and one flanking gene, Slc22a1l, but did not over-express Cdkn1c.
Mechanisms of Development 11/2004; 121(10):1199-210. · 2.38 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study investigates how a targeted mutation of a paternally expressed imprinted gene regulates multiple aspects of foetal and post-natal development including placental size, foetal growth, suckling and post-natal growth, weaning age and puberty onset. This same mutation in a mother impairs maternal reproductive success with reduced maternal care, reduced maternal food intake during pregnancy, and impaired milk let-down, which in turn reduces infant growth and delays weaning and onset of puberty. The significance of these coadaptive traits being synchronized in mother and offspring by the same paternally expressed imprinted gene ensures that offspring that have extracted 'good' maternal nurturing will themselves be both well provisioned and genetically predisposed towards 'good' mothering.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 07/2004; 271(1545):1303-9. · 5.68 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Peg3 is an imprinted gene exclusively expressed from the paternal allele. It encodes a C(2)H(2) type zinc-finger protein and is involved in maternal behavior. It is important for TNF-NFkB signaling and p53-mediated apoptosis. To investigate the imprinting mechanism and gene expression of Peg3 and its neighboring gene(s), we used a 120 kb Peg3-containing BAC clone to generate transgenic mice. The BAC clone contains 20 kb of 5' and 80 kb of 3' flanking DNA, and we obtained three transgenic lines. In one of the lines harboring one copy of the transgene, Peg3 was imprinted properly. In the other two lines, Peg3 was expressed upon both maternal and paternal transmission. Imprinted expression was linked to the differential methylation of a region (DMR) upstream of the Peg3 gene. A second, maternally expressed gene, Zim1, present on the transgene was expressed irrespective of parental inheritance in all lines. These data suggest that, similar to other imprinted genes within domains, Peg3 and Zim1 are regulated by one or more elements lying at a distance from the genes. The imprinting of Peg3 seen in one line may reflect the presence of a responder sequence. Concerning the expression of the Peg3 transgene, we detected appropriate expression in the adult brain. However, this was not sufficient to rescue the maternal behavior phenotype seen in Peg3 deficient animals.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: stella is a novel gene specifically expressed in primordial germ cells, oocytes, preimplantation embryos, and pluripotent cells. It encodes a protein with a SAP-like domain and a splicing factor motif-like structure, suggesting possible roles in chromosomal organization or RNA processing. Here, we have investigated the effects of a targeted mutation of stella in mice. We show that while matings between heterozygous animals resulted in the birth of apparently normal stella null offspring, stella-deficient females displayed severely reduced fertility due to a lack of maternally inherited Stella-protein in their oocytes. Indeed, we demonstrate that embryos without Stella are compromised in preimplantation development and rarely reach the blastocyst stage. stella is thus one of few known mammalian maternal effect genes, as the phenotypic effect on embryonic development is mainly a consequence of the maternal stella mutant genotype. Furthermore, we show that STELLA that is expressed in human oocytes is also expressed in human pluripotent cells and in germ cell tumors. Interestingly, human chromosome 12p, which harbours STELLA, is consistently overrepresented in these tumors. These findings suggest a similar role for STELLA during early human development as in mice and a potential involvement in germ cell tumors.
Current Biology 01/2004; 13(23):2110-7. · 9.49 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Enhancer of zeste 2 (Ezh2), a SET domain-containing protein, is crucial for development in many model organisms, including early mouse development. In mice, Ezh2 is detected as a maternally inherited protein in the oocyte but its function at the onset of development is unknown. We have used a conditional allele of Ezh2 to deplete the oocyte of this maternal inheritance. We show that the loss of maternal Ezh2 has a long-term effect causing severe growth retardation of neonates despite 'rescue' through embryonic transcription from the paternal allele. This phenotypic effect on growth could be attributed to the asymmetric localisation of the Ezh2/Eed complex and the associated histone methylation pattern to the maternal genome, which is disrupted in Ezh2 mutant zygotes. During subsequent development, we detect distinct histone methylation patterns in the trophectoderm and the pluripotent epiblast. In the latter where Oct4 expression continues from the zygote onwards, the Ezh2/Eed complex apparently establishes a unique epigenetic state and plasticity, which probably explains why loss of Ezh2 is early embryonic lethal and obligatory for the derivation of pluripotent embryonic stem cells. By contrast, in the differentiating trophectoderm cells where Oct4 expression is progressively downregulated Ezh2/Eed complex is recruited transiently to one X chromosome in female embryos at the onset of X-inactivation. This accumulation and the associated histone methylation are also lost in Ezh2 mutants, suggesting a role in X inactivation. Thus, Ezh2 has significant and diverse roles during early development, as well as during the establishment of the first differentiated cells, the trophectoderm, and of the pluripotent epiblast cells.
Development 10/2003; 130(18):4235-48. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An early fundamental event during development is the segregation of germ cells from somatic cells. In many organisms, this is accomplished by the inheritance of preformed germ plasm, which apparently imposes transcriptional repression to prevent somatic cell fate. However, in mammals, pluripotent epiblast cells acquire germ cell fate in response to signalling molecules. We have used single cell analysis to study how epiblast cells acquire germ cell competence and undergo specification. Germ cell competent cells express Fragilis and initially progress towards a somatic mesodermal fate. However, a subset of these cells, the future primordial germ cells (PGCs), then shows rapid upregulation of Fragilis with concomitant transcriptional repression of a number of genes, including Hox and Smad genes. This repression may be a key event associated with germ cell specification. Furthermore, PGCs express Stella and other genes, such as Oct-4 that are associated with pluripotency. While these molecules are also detected in mature oocytes as maternally inherited factors, their early role is to regulate development and maintain pluripotency, and they do not serve the role of classical germline determinants.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 09/2003; 358(1436):1363-70. · 6.23 Impact Factor