The pivotal roles of the NOD-like receptors with a PYD domain, NLRPs, in oocytes and early embryo development†

Biol Reprod. 2019 Aug 1;101(2):284-296. doi: 10.1093/biolre/ioz098.


Nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptors with a pyrin domain (PYD), NLRPs, are pattern recognition receptors, well recognized for their important roles in innate immunity and apoptosis. However, several NLRPs have received attention for their new, specialized roles as maternally contributed genes important in reproduction and embryo development. Several NLRPs have been shown to be specifically expressed in oocytes and preimplantation embryos. Interestingly, and in line with divergent functions, NLRP genes reveal a complex evolutionary divergence. The most pronounced difference is the human-specific NLRP7 gene, not identified in rodents. However, mouse models have been extensively used to study maternally contributed NLRPs. The NLRP2 and NLRP5 proteins are components of the subcortical maternal complex (SCMC), which was recently identified as essential for mouse preimplantation development. The SCMC integrates multiple proteins, including KHDC3L, NLRP5, TLE6, OOEP, NLRP2, and PADI6. The NLRP5 (also known as MATER) has been extensively studied. In humans, inactivating variants in specific NLRP genes in the mother are associated with distinct phenotypes in the offspring, such as biparental hydatidiform moles (BiHMs) and preterm birth. Maternal-effect recessive mutations in KHDC3L and NLRP5 (and NLRP7) are associated with reduced reproductive outcomes, BiHM, and broad multilocus imprinting perturbations. The precise mechanisms of NLRPs are unknown, but research strongly indicates their pivotal roles in the establishment of genomic imprints and post-zygotic methylation maintenance, among other processes. Challenges for the future include translations of findings from the mouse model into human contexts and implementation in therapies and clinical fertility management.

Keywords: NLRP genes; embryo development; hydatidiform mole; maternal-effect genes; oocytes; preterm birth; reproduction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / genetics
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Protein Domains


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins