Biology of reproduction
The reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to determine the patterns of expression for several growth factor ligand and receptor genes during ovine preimplantation development. Transcripts for insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, IGF-II, and the receptors for insulin and IGF-I were detected throughout ovine preimplantation development from the 1-cell to the blastocyst stage. Transforming growth factor alpha (TGF alpha) transcripts were also detected throughout ovine preimplantation development. The mRNAs encoding basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) were detected in all stages of the ovine preimplantation embryo, although the relative abundance of this transcript consistently decreased from the 1-cell to the blastocyst stage, suggesting that it may represent a maternal transcript in early sheep embryos. Transcripts encoding ovine trophoblast protein (oTP) were detected only within blastocyst-stage embryos. Primary ovine oviduct cell cultures express the transcripts for IGF-II, IGF-I, TGF alpha, bFGF, TGF beta 1, and the receptors for insulin and IGF-I, suggesting that paracrine growth factor circuits may exist between the oviduct epithelium and the early ovine embryo. Transcripts for insulin, epidermal growth factor (EGF), and nerve growth factor (NGF) were not detected in any stage of the ovine preimplantation embryo or within the oviduct cell preparations. The expression of growth factor transcripts very early in mammalian development would predict that these molecules fulfil a necessary role(s) in supporting the progression of early embryos through the preimplantation interval. Our future efforts will be directed to understanding the nature of these putative regulatory pathways.