Genome-wide gene expression profiling reveals aberrant MAPK and Wnt signaling pathways associated with early parthenogenesis
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Mammalian parthenogenesis could not survive but aborted during mid-gestation, presumably because of lack of paternal gene expression. To understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the failure of parthenogenesis at early stages of development, we performed global gene expression profiling and functional analysis of parthenogenetic blastocysts in comparison with those of blastocysts from normally fertilized embryos. Parthenogenetic blastocysts exhibited changes in the expression of 749 genes, of which 214 had lower expression and 535 showed higher expressions than fertilized embryos using a minimal 1.8-fold change as a cutoff. Genes important for placenta development were decreased in their expression in parthenote blastocysts. Some maternally expressed genes were up-regulated and paternal-related genes were down-regulated. Moreover, aberrantly increased Wnt signaling and reduced mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling were associated with early parthenogenesis. The protein level of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2 (ERK2) was low in parthenogenetic blastocysts compared with that of fertilized blastocysts 120 h after fertilization. 6-Bromoindirubin-3′-oxime, a specific glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) inhibitor, significantly decreased embryo hatching. The expression of several imprinted genes was altered in parthenote blastocysts. Gene expression also linked reduced expression of Xist to activation of X chromosome. Our findings suggest that failed X inactivation, aberrant imprinting, decreased ERK/MAPK signaling and possibly elevated Wnt signaling, and reduced expression of genes for placental development collectively may contribute to abnormal placenta formation and failed fetal development in parthenogenetic embryos.