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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: Consequences of early embryo environment

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This is a BBSRC research collaboration between Tom Fleming and Thomas Papenbrock. The current focus is to characterise the influence that conditions during the very early stages of embryonic development might have on phenotype during fetal and postnatal periods of life.

Using mice as the model system to expose embryos to a compromised environment in the female genital tract before they even implant into the uterine wall, Fleming and colleagues ask what the consequences later in life might be. Maternal nutrient restriction exclusive to the preimplantation period had a pronounced influence on fetal and postnatal growth and organ development, as well as postnatal physiology. Importantly, fetal effects persisted even after embryo transfer at the blastocyst stage between dams of the different treatment groups. To make inroads into the mechanisms of preimplantation nutritional programming, Fleming and colleagues are analysing global gene expression in the fetus with the rationale that changes in the fetal transcriptome might presage physiological consequences later in life. Initial findings appear to support this and Fleming and colleagues are working to confirm the response of key candidate genes by quantitative PCR.

Funding: BBSRC

Related research groups

Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

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