Knockdown of CDKN1C (p57(kip2)) and PHLDA2 results in developmental changes in bovine pre-implantation embryos

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 22;8(7):e69490. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069490. Print 2013.


Imprinted genes have been implicated in early embryonic, placental, and neonatal development and alterations in expression levels of these genes can lead to growth abnormalities and embryonic lethality. However, little is known about the functions of bovine imprinted genes during the pre-implantation period. Therefore, the objective of this study was to assess the influence of altered expression of imprinted genes on developmental progress of embryos using small interfering RNA (siRNA). Expression levels of 18 imprinted genes (MAGEL2, UBE3A, IGF2R, NAP1L5, TSSC4, PEG3, NDN, CDKN1C, PHLDA2, MKRN3, USP29, NNAT, PEG10, RTL1, IGF2, H19, MIM1, and XIST) were compared between embryos reaching the blastocyst stage and growth-arrested embryos (degenerates) using quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Ten genes were found to be differentially expressed between blastocysts and degenerates. The CDKN1C gene showed the highest upregulation in blastocysts whereas PHLDA2 was highly expressed in degenerates. To assess whether the observed differential gene expression was causative or resultant of embryo degeneration, these genes were selected for functional analysis using siRNA. Injection of siRNA specific to PHLDA2 into one-cell zygotes resulted in a substantial increase in blastocyst development, whereas injection of CDKN1C-specific siRNA resulted in a 45% reduction (P = 0.0006) in blastocyst development. RNA-Seq analysis of CDKN1C-siRNA-injected vs. non-injected embryos revealed 51 differentially expressed genes with functions in apoptosis, lipid metabolism, differentiation, and cell cycle regulation. Gene ontology analysis revealed nine pathways related to cell signaling, metabolism, and nucleic acid processing. Overall, our results show that proper expression levels of the imprinted genes CDKN1C and PHLDA2 are critical for embryo development, which suggests that these genes can be used as markers for normal blastocyst formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p57 / deficiency*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p57 / genetics*
  • Embryo Implantation / genetics*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques*
  • Nuclear Proteins / deficiency*
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Transcriptome


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p57
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering

Grant support

This research was funded by USDA Hatch grant No. PRJ16JH from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.