Following fertilization, a number of molecular events are triggered in the mammalian zygote. As biochemical studies using mammalian gametes and zygotes have inherent difficulties, the molecular nature of these processes is currently unclear. We have developed a method to visualize these events. In vitro transcribed mRNAs encoding for proteins fused with green fluorescent protein were microinjected into oocytes or embryos and fluorescence signals were observed. Using this technique we succeeded in obtaining images of the DNA methylation status in living mouse and rabbit embryos. Moreover, time-lapse images were acquired of spindle and nuclear formation during second meiosis and first mitosis. Importantly, the microinjected embryos developed to the normal offspring even after observation, suggesting that the technique is relatively noninvasive. Thus, our method may help elucidate the molecular aspects of fertilization and preimplantation development and, based on the real-time genetic and epigenetic status, could become a tool to select "good quality" embryos before implantation.
genesis 43:71-79, 2005. (c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.