Abstract

STUDY HYPOTHESIS

How does in vitro fertilization (IVF) alter promoter DNA methylation patterns and its subsequent effects on gene expression profiles during placentation in mice?

STUDY FINDING

IVF-induced alterations in promoter DNA methylation might have functional consequences in a number of biological processes and functions during IVF placentation, including actin cytoskeleton organization, hematopoiesis, vasculogenesis, energy metabolism and nutrient transport.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY

During post-implantation embryonic development, both embryonic and extraembryonic tissues undergo de novo DNA methylation, thereby establishing a global DNA methylation pattern, and influencing gene expression profiles. Embryonic and placental tissues of IVF conceptuses can have aberrant morphology and functions, resulting in adverse pregnancy outcomes such as pregnancy loss, low birthweight, and long-term health effects. To date, the IVF-induced global profiling of DNA methylation alterations, and their functional consequences on aberrant gene expression profiles in IVF placentas have not been systematically studied.

STUDY DESIGN, SAMPLES/MATERIALS, METHODS

Institute for Cancer Research mice (6 week-old females and 8–9 week-old males) were used to generate in vivo fertilization (IVO) and IVF blastocysts. After either IVO and development (IVO group as control) or in vitro fertilization and culture (IVF group), blastocysts were collected and transferred to pseudo-pregnant recipient mice. Extraembryonic (ectoplacental cone and extraembryonic ectoderm) and placental tissues from both groups were sampled at embryonic day (E) 7.5 (IVO, n = 822; IVF, n = 795) and E10.5 (IVO, n = 324; IVF, n = 278), respectively. The collected extraembryonic (E7.5) and placental tissues (E10.5) were then used for high-throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and methylated DNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (MeDIP-seq). The main dysfunctions indicated by bioinformatic analyses were further validated using molecular detection, and morphometric and phenotypic analyses.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE

Dynamic functional profiling of high-throughput data, together with molecular detection, and morphometric and phenotypic analyses, showed that differentially expressed genes dysregulated by DNA methylation were functionally involved in: (i) actin cytoskeleton disorganization in IVF extraembryonic tissues, which may impair allantois or chorion formation, and chorioallantoic fusion; (ii) disturbed hematopoiesis and vasculogenesis, which may lead to abnormal placenta labyrinth formation and thereby impairing nutrition transport in IVF placentas; (iii) dysregulated energy and amino acid metabolism, which may cause placental dysfunctions, leading to delayed embryonic development or even lethality; (iv) disrupted genetic information processing, which can further influence gene transcriptional and translational processes.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION

Findings in mouse placental tissues may not be fully representative of human placentas. Further studies are necessary to confirm these findings and determine their clinical significance.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS

Our study is the first to provide the genome-wide analysis of gene expression dysregulation caused by DNA methylation during IVF placentation. Systematic understanding of the molecular mechanisms implicated in IVF placentation can be useful for the improvement of existing assisted conception systems to prevent these IVF-associated safety concerns.

STUDY FUNDING AND COMPETING INTEREST(S)

This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31472092), and the National High-Tech R&D Program (Nos. 2011|AA100303, 2013AA102506). There was no conflict of interest.

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