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Mol Reprod Dev. 2010 Oct;77(10):876-87. doi: 10.1002/mrd.21230.

Caffeine treatment of ovine cytoplasts regulates gene expression and foetal development of embryos produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer.

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Animal Development and Biotechnology Group, School of Biosciences, The University of Nottingham, Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK.


Treatment of ovine oocytes during the latter stages of maturation in vitro with caffeine, a phosphodiesterase inhibitor, can increase the activities of maturation promoting factor and mitogen-activated protein kinases at metaphase II. When used as cytoplast recipients for somatic cell nuclear transfer (NT), caffeine-treated oocytes produced blastocysts with increased cell numbers. The objectives of these studies were to determine the effects of caffeine treatment on the expression profile of genes involved in early embryonic development and whether induction or maintenance of pregnancy was subsequently altered. No differences in overall expression patterns were observed between fertilised, caffeine-treated fertilised and parthenogenetic embryos. In control NT embryos, altered levels of gene expression were found for OCT4, five genes regulated by OCT4 (H2AF.Z, NANOG, SOX2, FGF4 and INFT) and the heat-shock response genes (HSP27 and HSP70.1). Levels of OCT4, H2AF.Z, NANOG, HSP 27 and FGF4 decreased, while those of INFT, HSP70.1 and SOX2 increased. In contrast, expression levels of these genes in caffeine-treated NT embryos were similar to those in fertilised controls. Following transfer to surrogate recipients no differences were observed in the frequency of pregnancy; however, ewes receiving caffeine-treated embryos maintained pregnancies for longer periods and delivered a live lamb. Taken together, these results suggest that treatment of ovine oocytes with caffeine can affect gene expression and improve developmental competence. Further studies on the mechanisms behind this alteration of gene expression are required and will aid in understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in nuclear reprogramming.

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