Research Themes

 

Development of Foundational Platform Technology

Theme 1 – Impact of ART on oocyte/embryonic quality in cattle
Theme 2 – Impact of ART on oocyte/embryonic quality in swine
Theme 3 – Impact of maternal metabolic status on oocyte/embryonic quality in cattle
Theme 4 -- Impact of maternal metabolic status on oocyte/embryonic quality in swine 

EmbryoGENE represents an integration of four closely- related themes built on a strong, common methodological platform. The comparative activities of the network are structured according to the nature of the perturbations to be evaluated: 1) assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and 2) maternal nutritional/metabolic states, and the livestock species in which these perturbations are to be studied: 1) cattle and 2) swine. The effects will be studied both at the transcriptome and the epigenome levels, using standardized  technological platforms developed as the overarching, strategic goal of the EmbryoGENE program.


Development of Foundational Platform Technology

Theme Leader: Claude Robert (ULaval) 
Participants: Sarah Kimmins (McGillU), Walter Dixon (UAlberta), Marc-André Sirard (ULaval), Benjamin Tsang (UOttawa)

Within EmbryoGENE, the two main methodologies used to measure the impacts of assisted reproductive technologies and the metabolic status of the female on early embryonic development will be transcriptomic and epigenomic analyses. The development of technical platforms as an initial component of EmbryoGENE will provide the very foundation for the comparative analyses decribed under Themes 1-4 (below) and will create a unique synergy within the Network.  The 'omic' tools are high-throughput and will simultaneously evaluate the expression profile of several thousand candidate genes. The candidate gene approach produces valuable data, but it does not display the overall picture that is needed in EmbryoGENE to appreciate the complex responses underlying gene x environment interactions, or the deviations in embryonic development resulting from the application of ARTs to domestic livestock production. A global profiling capability will enable EmbryoGENE researchers to identify entire physiological pathways that are affected and will serve either to develop corrective measures, or to better understand and categorize the impacts that the surrounding environment/manuipulations have on early embryonic development. Both tools will be developed from expertise within EmbryoGENE teams and will be shared among all members of the Network. Only within a structure such as a national network is it possible to develop analytical tools of this complexity, as this task requires a level of resources not attainable by individual laboratories.

EmbryoGENE LIMS and Microarray Analysis (ELMA)
Microarray analysis software, FlexArray

Theme 1: Impact of ART on oocyte/embryonic quality in cattle

Theme Leader:    Claude Robert (ULaval)

Participants: Marc-André Sirard & François Richard (ULaval), Allan King (UoGuelph), Lawrence Smith (UMontreal), Gregg Adams (USaskatchewan) Jaswant Singh (USaskatchewan), Benjamin Tsang (UOttawa)  

Collaborators: Patrick Blondin (Boviteq), Sylvie Bilodeau-Goeseels, John Kastelic & Muhammad Anzar (AAFC), Divakar Ambrose (AAF, Alberta), Margot Dode (Brazil), and Steph Dielemann (Netherlands)

Research under Theme 1 will investigate the impacts of various assisted reproductive technologies on the quality of cattle ooctyes/embryos including, but not limited to, the impacts of diverse culture systems used in in vitro produced embryos, the impacts of standard ART procedures (ie. ovarian stimulation, cryopreservation, etc), and the impacts of cloning.


Theme 2: Impact of ART on oocyte/embryonic quality in swine

Theme Leader: Michael Dyck (UAlberta)

Participants: Vilceu Bordignon (McGillU), Julang Li (UGuelph), Serguei Golovan (UGuelph), George Foxcroft (UAlberta), Sarah Kimmins (McGill)

Collaborators: John Dobrinsky (Minitube), Louisa Zak (Bioniche), John Kastelic (AAFC), Andrzej Bialensky (CFIA)

Research under Theme 2 will investigate the impacts of in vitro culture of oocytes and early embryos, standard ART procedures, and the impacts of cloning and transgenesis.



Theme 3: Impact of maternal metabolic status on oocyte/embryonic quality in cattle

Theme Leader: Marc-André Sirard (ULaval)

Participants: Gregg Adams & Jaswant Singh (USask), François Richard, François Pothier (ULaval), Ben Tsang (OHRI)

Collaborators: Hélène Petit (AAFC), Divakar Ambrose (AAF)

Initial objectives:

Compare the transcriptome of granulosa cells in different periods of the cow’s production cycle for the purpose of characterizing the postpartum subfertility period.

Compare the transcriptome of granulosa cells of high-producing cows with a positive, neutral, and negative energy balance using appropriate diet.

Define metabolic pathways that act on follicle growth to apply appropriate nutritional or pharmacological correctives.

Use animal models to study the impact of specific genes on follicular development and embryo quality.


Theme 4: Impact of maternal metabolic status on oocyte/embryonic quality in swine

Theme Leader:George Foxcroft (UAlberta)

Participants: Bruce Murphy (UMontréal), Michael Dyck & Walter Dixon (UAlberta), Vilceu Bordignon (UMcGill)

Collaborators: Coen Smits (Nutreco), Marie-France Palin & Jacques Matte (AAFC), Steve Webel (JBS United)                

Initial objectives: 

Compare the transcriptome of granulosa cells in different periods of the pig’s production cycle for the purpose of characterizing the postpartum subfertility period.

Characterize the transcriptome/epigenome of granulosa cells, oocytes, and embryos resulting  from female pigs of different maturity (gilts and sows), exposed to different nutritional regimes, and/or experiencing different metabolic states.

Compare the transcriptome of porcine granulosa cells, as well as transcriptome/epigenome of oocytes and embryos, resulting from pigs of different maturity and metabolic status.

Integrate the resulting transcriptomic and epigenomic information across treatments to determine the role of nutrition and metabolic state in determining oocyte/embryo quality in the pig and the differing dynamics of early embryonic survival described in recent studies.