The zona pellucida (ZP) plays a crucial role in the process of fertilization to early embryonic development, including cellular arrangement and communication between blastomeres. However, little is known regarding the role of the ZP in pre- and post-implantation embryonic development associated with gene expression. We investigated the effect of zona pellucida removal (ZPR) on pre- and post-implantation development of mouse embryos. After ZPR of 2-cell stage embryos was performed by acid Tyrode's solution, which is commonly used for ZP treatment, compaction occurred earlier in ZP-free (ZF) than ZP-intact (ZI) embryos. In addition, the expression of differentiation-related genes in the inner cell mass (ICM) and trophectoderm (TE) was significantly altered in ZF blastocyst compared with ZI embryos. After embryo transfer, the rate of implantation and live fetuses was lower in ZF embryos than in control embryos, whereas the fetal weight at E17.5 was not different. However, placental weight significantly increased in ZF embryos. RNA-seq analysis of the placenta showed that a total of 473 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) significantly influenced the biological process. The present study suggests that ZPR by acid Tyrode's solution at the 2-cell stage not only disturbs the expression pattern of ICM/TE-related genes but affects the post-implantation development of mouse embryos. Overall, this study provides deeper insight into the role of the ZP during early embryonic development and the viability of post-implantation development.
Keywords: ICM/TE differentiation; Zona pellucida; acid Tyrode’s solution; post-implantation development; pre-implantation development; zona pellucida removal.
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