Transcription of tissue-specific genes in human preimplantation embryos
We have recently detected de-novo transcripts of the predominantly muscle-specific myotonin protein kinase gene in human preimplantation embryos from the 1-cell to the 4-cell stages. Others have shown de-novo transcripts of the Y-linked genes, ZFY and SRY, in the 1-cell zygote. In order to assess the significance of early transcription of these predominantly tissue-specific genes in preimplantation development, we have analysed individual human oocytes and preimplantation embryos for the
... ryos for the presence of transcripts of two further tissue-specific genes, α-globin and β-globin, and two house-keeping genes, HPRT and APRT. Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assays were developed to the required single cell sensitivity, using human red blood cells and fibroblasts, prior to their application to human oocytes and embryos. As expected, transcripts of the house-keeping genes, HPRT and APRT, were detected at all stages of preimplantation development. Transcripts of 'tissue-specific' α-globin were readily detected in preimplantation embryos from the 1-cell stage. However, transcripts of β-globin were detected only rarely (in only one of the 11 embryos analysed). This difference may be due to the fact that α-globin contains a CpG island. A survey of the data on gene expression in early human development suggests that CpG-island-containing genes may be expressed in preimplantation embryos. Expression of these genes in gametes and early embryos may be involved in the survival of CpG islands in evolution.