While the expression and epigenetic differences of imprinted genes have been extensively characterized in the mouse and human, little is known about imprinted genes in livestock species. In the current study, eight genes that are imprinted in the human or mouse were investigated in preimplantation bovine embryos. Amplified cDNA was created from three single metaphase II (MII) oocytes or embryos throughout preimplantation development. The imprinted genes Dlk1 and Mest (isoform 1) had no detectable transcripts during preimplantation development. Gnas and Grb10 were expressed in most embryos from the 2-cell to blastocyst stages of development. Mest (isoform 2) was expressed in all oocytes and embryos, except for one blastocyst sample. Ndn and Xist were expressed from the 8–16-cell stage (maternal-to-zygotic transition, MZT) onwards. Sgce was expressed until the MZT, and Nnat in both early (α form) and late (β form) stage embryos. The paternally imprinted genes Gnas, Grb10, and Xist were expressed in both in vitro-fertilized (IVF) and parthenogenetically activated (PA) blastocysts as expected. Of the four maternally imprinted genes expressed in the blastocyst (Mest, Ndn, Nnat, and Sgce), Nnat alone showed differential mRNA expression between IVF and PA blastocysts, suggesting imprinting by this stage of development. In conclusion, seven of the eight genes investigated showed mRNA expression during preimplantation development, indicating a potential role during early development. Also significant is the observation that Nnat is imprinted by the blastocyst stage of development although the other genes are not, indicating a temporal imprinting program.
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