Successful establishment and maintenance of pregnancy can be attained only through optimum conceptus-maternal cross talk. Despite significant progress in our understanding of the temporal changes in the transcriptome of the uterine endometrium, we have only a rudimentary knowledge of the genes and pathways governing growth and development of the bovine conceptus. In particular, very little information exists for the posthatching embryo and elongating conceptus. This period of development is arguably the most important, as approximately 40% of all embryonic loss occurs between Days 8 and 17 of pregnancy in cattle. Here, we describe the global transcriptome profile of the bovine conceptus at five key stages of its pre- and peri-implantation growth (Days 7, 10, 13, 16, and 19) using state-of-the-art RNA sequencing techniques. More than 287 million reads were generated at the five stages, and more than 22 700 unique transcripts were detected. Analysis of variance followed by self-organizing maps identified differentially regulated (P < 0.05) genes organized in nine gene clusters forming a sequential transcript dynamics across these developmental stages. Of particular interest, genes in clusters 3 (n = 236) and 6 (n = 1409) were significantly up-regulated on Days 16 and 19, suggesting a role in maternal recognition and initiation of implantation. This transcriptome analysis of the bovine conceptus will provide a blueprint of the dynamic changes in gene expression occurring during maternal recognition and implantation and will complement existing knowledge of the temporal changes in the endometrial transcriptome, thus facilitating a better understanding of conceptus-maternal cross talk during the peri-implantation period of pregnancy.
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Vol. 85 • No. 6