Interactions between sperm and egg are required to maintain embryo viability and cellular integrity. Differential transcriptional activities and epigenetic differences that include genomic imprinting provide mechanisms by which complementary parental genome functions support early embryogenesis. We previously showed that cytofragmentation can be influenced by the specific combination of maternal and paternal genotypes. Using maternal pronuclear transfer in mouse embryos, we examined the cellular basis for the maternal genotype effect. We found that the maternal genotype effect is predominantly controlled by the maternal pronucleus, with a lesser role played by the ooplasm. This effect of the maternal pronucleus is sensitive to α-amanitin treatment. The effect of the maternal component of the embryonic genome on cytofragmentation constitutes the earliest known effect of the embryonic genome on mammalian embryo phenotype. The results also indicate that clinical procedures seeking to define or manipulate oocyte quality in humans should take into account early effects of the embryonic genome, particularly the maternal genome.
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