Discovery of key protein for embryo health

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A new breakthrough in fertility research has shown that a protein, called TRIM28, normally present in the mother’s egg, is essential right after fertilization to preserve chemical modification on a specific set of genes. These chemical modifications are also called ‘epigenetic marks’ and the research paves the way for further exploration into the role epigenetics plays in infertility.

Other studies have shown the importance of nuclear programming and imprinting. These are vital for the survival of the embryo. Still, the underlying mechanisms that govern the interplay of these processes have not been clear until this study.

Right after fertilization, most of the epigenetic marks on the DNA of both egg and sperm are erased. This process, also called nuclear reprogramming, enables the genes from the parents to be reset so that the early embryonic cells can develop into any cell types of the body.

However, certain epigenetic marks must be preserved. These are said to be imprinted by the parent and their preservation is critical for survival of the embryo. If the epigenetic marks on the imprinted genes do not survive, severe defects occur in the embryo.

In the lab, using mice, Drs. Davor Solter and Barbara Knowles observed that none of the embryos resulting from fertilization of eggs lacking TRIM28 survived. Dr. Solter used an analogy to explain the process. A school teacher writes a long string of formulas on the black board. He marks sections to be kept until the next day (the imprinted marks) and asks the cleaning lady to erase the rest (the reprogramming). “We now know that TRIM28 instructs the cleaning lady which parts of the formulas she should preserve,” explained Dr. Solter.

This should open new avenues of study for the preservation of fertility and the explanation of infertility.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Agency for Science, Technology and Research


 
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