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Genome Biol Evol. 2012;4(3):394-411. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evs013. Epub 2012 Feb 14.

Uterine gene expression in the live-bearing lizard, Chalcides ocellatus, reveals convergence of squamate reptile and mammalian pregnancy mechanisms.

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1
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, USA. mbrandley@gmail.com

Abstract

Although the morphological and physiological changes involved in pregnancy in live-bearing reptiles are well studied, the genetic mechanisms that underlie these changes are not known. We used the viviparous African Ocellated Skink, Chalcides ocellatus, as a model to identify a near complete gene expression profile associated with pregnancy using RNA-Seq analyses of uterine transcriptomes. Pregnancy in C. ocellatus is associated with upregulation of uterine genes involved with metabolism, cell proliferation and death, and cellular transport. Moreover, there are clear parallels between the genetic processes associated with pregnancy in mammals and Chalcides in expression of genes related to tissue remodeling, angiogenesis, immune system regulation, and nutrient provisioning to the embryo. In particular, the pregnant uterine transcriptome is dominated by expression of proteolytic enzymes that we speculate are involved both with remodeling the chorioallantoic placenta and histotrophy in the omphaloplacenta. Elements of the maternal innate immune system are downregulated in the pregnant uterus, indicating a potential mechanism to avoid rejection of the embryo. We found a downregulation of major histocompatability complex loci and estrogen and progesterone receptors in the pregnant uterus. This pattern is similar to mammals but cannot be explained by the mammalian model. The latter finding provides evidence that pregnancy is controlled by different endocrinological mechanisms in mammals and reptiles. Finally, 88% of the identified genes are expressed in both the pregnant and the nonpregnant uterus, and thus, morphological and physiological changes associated with C. ocellatus pregnancy are likely a result of regulation of genes continually expressed in the uterus rather than the initiation of expression of unique genes.

PMID:
22333490
PMCID:
PMC3318437
DOI:
10.1093/gbe/evs013
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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