Developmental changes in RNA polymerase II in bovine oocytes, early embryos, and effect of α-amanitin on embryo development

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Molecular Reproduction and Development


Development of mammalian early embryos relies on stored maternal messenger RNAs (mRNAs) that have been synthesized during oogenesis until embryonic genome activation. Although embryonic genome activation in bovine embryos has been proposed to start at the late 4-cell stage, recent evidences suggest that embryonic genome activation starts earlier than the 4-cell stage, and molecular details of this event are not known. RNA polymerase II in eukaryotes is responsible for transcription of mRNA and most of the small nuclear RNAs. The unphosphorylated form of RNA polymerase II (IIA) has been shown to function in transcriptional initiation, and the hyperphosphorylated form (IIO) functions in translational elongation and mRNA splicing. In this study, we examined the changes in the amount of RNA polymerase IIA by immunoblotting in immature oocytes; mature oocytes; and 2-, 4- and 8-cell bovine embryos. We also examined the levels of IIO and the multiple intermediately phosphorylated form in the same oocytes and embryos. The IIA reached the highest level at the 2-cell stage and decreased gradually at the 4- and 8-cell stages, and IIO was at very low levels in mature oocytes and 2- cell stage embryos and was not detectable at later stages. The multiple intermediately phosphorylated form was present at the highest level in mature oocytes and was detectable at the other stages. We demonstrate that RNA polymerase IIA, which is responsible for initiation of transcription, is present in oocytes and preimplantation embryos and reaches the highest levels in the 2-cell stage embryos. Inhibition of RNA polymerase II-dependent transcription during any of the first four embryonic cell cycles has detrimental effects on progression of embryonic development beyond the 16- cell stage, indicating the importance of early transcripts for continuation of development. The results indicate that expression of all the genes whose transcription is inhibited by α-amanitin is essential for embryo development.

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