Gene expression regulating blastocyst formation.
Development of embryos to the blastocyst stage is a critical event in the early lives of all eutherian mammalian species. Blastocyst formation is essential for implantation and is the principal morphological determinant of embryo quality prior to embryo transfer. The physiological events and roles of specific gene families that regulate blastocyst formation are subjects of intense research Recent findings have demonstrated that bovine embryos express multiple members of the Na/K-ATPase ion transporter gene family. Two members of this family have been co-localized to bovine trophectoderm, but each becomes largely confined to opposing cell membrane margins. Bovine blastocysts display a greater sensitivity to ouabain (potent inhibitor of the Na/K-ATPase) than murine blastocysts, and enzyme activity (ouabain sensitive 86Rb+ uptake) undergoes a 9-fold increase from the bovine morula to the blastocyst stage. Disruption of Na/K-ATPase gene expression by antisense oligodeoxynucleotide inhibition abolishes blastocyst formation. These results have implicated the Na/K-ATPase as a key regulator of bovine blastocyst formation and have provided insights necessary for the production of healthy bovine embryos by the application of in vitro maturation, in vitro fertilization and in vitro culture methods.