10.1002/mrd.1080330406.abs Estrogen is required for oocyte maturation and embryonic development in vivo; however, the mechanism involved is not clear. Since the effect of estrogen is mediated through the estrogen receptor (ER), we examined the ontogeny and expression of the ER gene in mouse oocytes and embryos of various gestational stages using the highly sensitive reverse transcriptase‐polymerase chain reaction (RT‐PCR) technique. Total RNA, extracted from 40 ovulated oocytes, 2‐cell embryos, morulae, and blastocysts, was reverse transcribed into cDNA. A pair of primers flanking the 453‐bp region encoding the hormone‐binding domain of ER was used for 30 cycles of PCR. The identity of the amplified product was confirmed by sizing and Southern blot hybridization. The results indicated that ER gene is expressed in unfertilized oocytes and cumulus–oocyte complexes. The amount of ER mRNA decreases in 2‐cell embryos, coincident with degradation of maternal mRNA. No ER transcript can be detected in the morulae or blastocyst stage when the embryonic genome has been activated. Postimplantation embryos do not contain detectable ER mRNA until gestation day 8. The levels of ER mRNA increase from day 10 to day 18 of gestation. These data suggest that estrogen, secreted by granulosa cells, may directly influence oocyte growth and maturation in vivo. Since estrogen is known to stimulate the production of growth factors in mouse uteri, the absence of ER mRNA in periimplantation embryos suggests that the effects of estrogen on early embryogenesis may be indirect, i.e., through estrogen‐regulated growth‐promoting factors produced by the reproductive tract. In mid‐ and late‐post‐implantation embryos which contain ER mRNA, estrogen may affect embryonic development through the receptor‐mediated mechanisms. © 1992 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
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