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Habermann, Felix A.; Wuensch, Annegret; Sinowatz, Fred; Wolf, E. (2007): Reporter genes for embryogenesis research in livestock species. International Conference on Farm Animal Reproduction: "From Egg to Embryo", 27. - 31. Mai 2007, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Currently, our knowledge of early mammalian embryogenesis, stem cell differentiation and development is largely based on studies performed in mouse models. However, in important aspects, e.g. the timing of epigenetic reprogramming and embryonic genome activation, livestock species probably reflect far more closely the situation in men and other non-rodent mammals. A major challenge is the fact that in mammals, the development of individual zygotes is highly variable and vulnerable, and the outcome is uncertain. Valid indicators of the highly heterogeneous development and health status, and the actual developmental potential of individual oocytes, zygotes or embryos would be crucially important to tap the full power of holistic transcriptome and proteome analyses. Fluorescent reporter proteins opened new vistas for embryology and stem cell research: they can be used as reporters for the activity of gene promoters or tagged to functional proteins to study their intracellular localization in living cells, tissues and organisms. Fluorescent reporter genes may be used to microscopically observe key processes of early development. Thus, novel information related to developmental potential can be obtained from living embryos before processing them, e.g. for “-omic” studies. This review summarizes the main current reporter gene techniques and gene transfer approaches, which might be suitable for the investigation of early embryogenesis in livestock mammals. The potential of promoter reporter genes is exemplified by a bovine model system for quantitative monitoring of transcriptional reactivation of the so-called pluripotency gene POU5F1 in cloned bovine embryos.