Background: The early preimplantation embryo relies on mRNA and protein from the oocyte to detect DNA damage and activate DNA repair, cell cycle arrest or apoptosis. Expression of some repair genes has been detected in mammalian oocytes and embryos; however, little is known about DNA repair gene expression in human blastocysts. In this study, DNA repair gene expression was investigated in human oocytes and blastocysts to identify the pathways involved at these stages and detect potential differences in repair mechanisms pre- and post-embryonic genome activation.
Methods: Triplicate sets of pooled metaphase II oocytes or blastocysts were processed for analysis using the Human Genome Survey Microarrays V2.0 (Applied Biosystems).
Results: Of 154 DNA repair genes investigated, 109 were detected in blastocysts and 107 in oocytes. Among differentially expressed DNA repair genes, 40/55 (73%) had lower expression levels in blastocysts compared with oocytes (P < 0.05, fold change >3).
Conclusion: Despite experimental limitations due to culture or freezing and thawing of samples, large numbers of repair genes were detected indicating that all DNA repair pathways are potentially functional in human oocytes and blastocysts. The higher mRNA level for most repair genes in oocytes compared with blastocysts ensures sufficient availability of template until embryonic genome activation.