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Octamer-binding transcription factor 4 (Oct4) is a critical molecule for the self-renewal and pluripotency of embryonic stem cells. Recent reports have shown that Oct4 also controls cell-cycle progression and enhances the proliferation of various types of cells. As the high proliferation of donor fibroblasts is critical to the production of transgenic pigs, using the somatic cell nuclear transfer technique, we analysed the effect of Oct4 overexpression on the proliferation of porcine fibroblasts and embryos. Porcine endogenous Oct4 cDNA was cloned, sequenced and inserted into an expression vector. The vector was transfected into porcine fibroblasts, and a stable Oct4-overexpressed cell line was established by antibiotic selection. Oct4 expression was validated by the immunostaining of Oct4. Cell morphology was changed to sharp, and both proliferation and migration abilities were enhanced in Oct4-overexpressed cells. Real-time RT-PCR results showed that p16, Bcl2 and Myc were upregulated in Oct4-overexpressed cells. Somatic cell nuclear transfer was performed using Oct4-overexpressed cells, and the development of Oct4 embryos was compared with that of wild-type cloned embryos. The cleavage and blastocyst formation rates were improved in the Oct4 embryos. Interestingly, blastocyst formation of the Oct4 embryos was observed as early as day 5 in culture, while blastocysts were observed from day 6 in wild-type cloned embryos. In conclusion, the overexpression of Oct4 enhanced the proliferation of both porcine fibroblasts and embryos.
It is increasingly evident that conditional gene expression in pigs is necessary to make transgenic models. In this study, we investigated conditional expression in porcine fetal fibroblasts using Cre-loxP recombination, a system that has had limited application in large animals to date. Transformed fibroblasts were reprogrammed in enucleated oocytes to support further early embryonic development. Fetal fibroblasts from miniature pigs were used for transfection with a plasmid that contained a red fluorescent protein marker (pCALNL-DsRed) and a floxed neomycin-resistance gene. Cells were selected with 750 μg/ml neomycin for 2 weeks following transfection but did not express DsRed after visualization under a fluorescence microscope. Expression was achieved only after transient transfection with plasmid DNA that expressed the Cre recombinase enzyme. The cells that expressed DsRed were used for somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). A total of 121 oocytes were used for SCNT and 76 cloned embryos (62.8%) were seen to have cleaved. Six blastocysts developed after SCNT and expressed DsRed. Deletion of the floxed neomycin-resistance gene was confirmed by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in cloned blastocysts. This study demonstrated that Cre-loxP recombination can be conducted successfully in miniature pig fibroblasts and that the sequentially transformed cells can develop to the pre-implantation embryo stage via SCNT.
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