Production of embryos with high developmental competence by somatic cell nuclear transfer (scNT) is far less efficient than for in vitro fertilized (IVF) embryos, likely due to an accumulation of errors in genome reprogramming that results in aberrant expression of RNA transcripts, including messenger RNAs (mRNA) and, possibly, microRNAs (miRNA). Thus, our objectives were to use RNAseq to determine the dynamics of mRNA expression in early developing scNT and IVF embryos in the context of the maternal-to-embryonic transition (MET) and to correlate apparent transcriptional dysregulation in cloned embryos with miRNA expression profiles. Comparisons between scNT and IVF embryos indicated large scale transcriptome differences, which were most evident at the 8-cell and morula stages for genes associated with biological functions critical for the MET. For two miRNAs previously identified as differentially expressed in scNT morulae, miR-34a and miR-345, negative correlations with some predicted mRNA targets were apparent, though not widespread among the majority of predicted targets. Moreover, although large-scale aberrations in expression of mRNAs were evident during the MET in cattle scNT embryos, these changes were not consistently correlated with aberrations in miRNA expression at the same developmental stage, suggesting that other mechanisms controlling gene expression may be involved.
Whereas large-scale aberrations in expression of mRNAs were evident during the maternal-to-embryonic transition in cattle scNT embryos, these changes were not consistently correlated with changes in miRNA expression at the same developmental stage.