Negative uterine asynchrony retards early equine conceptus development and upregulation of placental imprinted genes

Placenta. 2017 Sep:57:175-182. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2017.07.007. Epub 2017 Jul 11.


Introduction: Placental imprinted genes appear to be sensitive indicators of an inappropriate pre-implantation environment. This study examined the effects of negative uterine asynchrony after embryo transfer (ET) on early horse embryo development, and yolk-sac membrane expression of DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) and equine specific placental imprinted genes.

Methods: Day 8 embryos were transferred to recipient mares on day 8 (synchronous) or day 3 (asynchronous) after ovulation, and conceptuses were recovered 6 or 11 days later (day 14 or 19 of development).

Results: Day 14 conceptuses recovered from an asynchronous uterus had a smaller embryonic disc, in which primitive streak development was visibly retarded compared to conceptuses from a synchronous uterus. Similarly, length, somite number and organogenesis were retarded in day 19 embryos after asynchronous ET. Maternal (GRB10, H19, IGF2R, PHLDA2) and paternal (IGF2, INSR, PEG3, PEG10, DIO3, NDN, SNRPN) imprinted genes and DNMTs (DNMT1, 3A and 3B) were all up-regulated between day 14 and 19 of pregnancy and, for most, mRNA expression was higher in synchronous than asynchronous day 19 yolk-sac membrane. Expression of the paternally imprinted gene HAT1 increased between day 14 and 19 of pregnancy, but was not affected by the asynchrony.

Discussion: Conceptus development and upregulation of DNMTs and imprinted genes were delayed rather than dysregulated after transfer into a negatively asynchronous uterus. We propose that this ability to 'reset' conceptus development to uterine stage is an adaptation that explains why horse embryos are unusually tolerant of asynchrony after ET.

Keywords: Conceptus; Embryo transfer; Imprinted genes; Uterine environment.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Modification Methylases / metabolism*
  • Embryo Transfer
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Genomic Imprinting*
  • Horses / embryology*
  • Uterus / physiology*


  • DNA Modification Methylases