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Open Access

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Degree Program

Animal Science

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

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Month Degree Awarded



dsRNA, gene knockdown, pre-implantation, RNA factors


Preimplantation embryo development in the mouse is a time of rapid cellular morphological and molecular changes leading to embryo implantation for the generation of offspring. The Mager lab studies these events occuring between fertilization and implantation in order to better understand the initial events which set the stage for all future aspects of development. The result of this research impacts many scientific disciplines including in-vitro based means of embryo culture, establishment of epigenetic marks, differentiation and cellular reprogramming and can be used in translational research for the improvement of in-vitro culture techniques and develop novel therapies such as cell replacement in the case of macular degeneration (Bin, L., 2009).

Through the use of in-vitro embryo culture, RNA interference (RNAi) approaches and daily observations, gene function required in preimplantation embryo development can be determined. In the initial published body of work evaluating gene knockdown using our RNAi approach (Maserati M 2011), WDR74 was characterized in preimplantation embryo development. We now understand that WDR74 is implicated in RNA production and/or stability as gene knockdown at the 1 cell stage significantly depletes mRNA within the embryo by the morula stage. Furthermore, double knockdown of Trp53 and Wdr74 results in a partial rescue of blastocyst formation suggesting p53 mediated apoptosis in the failure to make a blastocyst phenotype.

The initial characterization of 4 RNA processing genes (SF3b14, SF3b1/SAP155, Rpl7l1 and Rrp7a) required for blastocyst formation was later evaluated. The results of this work has been submitted for publication and will be published soon in the journal Zygote. SF3b14 and SF3b1, identified as being part of the splicesome complex, disproportionally contributes to gene transcription of those genes containing more than 1 exon verifying a role in RNA splicing. Rpl7l1, identified by GO terms as a possible ribosomal gene, was found to be present in the cytoplasm and, surprisingly, in the nucleus. It is surmised this gene influences polymerase 2 activity as Rpl7l1 gene knockdown embryos demonstrate reduced active polymerase 2 activity at the morula stage. Rrp7a was identified as being critical in blastocyst formation and is present in the cytoplasm while excluded from the nucleus. Based on location and GO terms, this suggests a role in translation. Taken together, these 4 genes act in 3 different ways impacting RNA production, splicing or translation promoting blastocyst formation in the mouse.

The final gene evaluated in this work was Bcl-6 corepressor (Bcor). As opposed to our previous work with RNA processing factors, this gene knockdown does not result in a failure to make a blastocyst. Bcor knockdown increases the rate of physiologically normal blastocysts in both murine and bovine models. Although further characterization must be done, temporary Bcor gene knockdown might be a useful improvement of in-vitro embryo culture systems including murine, bovine, equine and possibly even human.

This manuscript is divided into 4 chapters, the first of which is a review of preimplantation embryo development. This covers selected and relevant events between fertilization and just before implantation of the embryo into the uterus. I mainly focus on events after fertilization and the necessary changes required for zygotic genome transcription and lineage specification.

The second chapter characterizes WDR74, a gene we identified as critical in the formation of a blastocyst in a reverse genetic screen. As state before, we assess WDR74 function with the developing embryo and conclude the protein plays a role in RNA production and/or stability of RNA transcripts. We also test to rescue blastocyst formation in WDR74 knockdown embryos in an attempt to further evaluate WDR74 function.

We continue the characterization of genes whose temporary reduction causes the failure of blastocyst formation in the third chapter. Here we report on four additional RNA processing genes in a body of work which has been published in the journal Zygote. Since these genes contained similar GO terms, we assumed they may all function in a similar way so they were assayed together as a group. As function of these genes were unknown, we determined protein localization within the cell, function in RNA splicing, alternative splicing and to determine if the failure to make a blastocyst is due to lineage specification.

In the final chapter, BCOR gene expression is characterized in preimplantation embryo development as in the former 2 chapters. However, the result of this gene knockdown does not lead to the failure to make a blastocyst, rather this improves the number of blastocysts formed during the correct physiological time; the same time that blastocysts form invivo. Undoubtedly, this could lead to possible commercial applications which are reviewed along with the preliminary data we have been able to collect thus far. Specifically, the continuation of the BCOR gene knockdown research in preimplantation embryo development is pitched in the form of academic and international business collaboration with InvitroBrasil for the production of cloned bovine, equine and ICSI in equine.


First Advisor

Jesse Mager

Second Advisor

Kimberly D. Tremblay