MADISON - By successfully inserting a gene from a jellyfish into the fertilized eggs of rhesus monkeys, scientists have managed to make transgenic placentas, placentas where the inserted gene functions as it does in the jellyfish.
Writing today, Sept. 11, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Thaddeus G. Golos of the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, described the successful insertion of a "reporter gene" into two fertilized rhesus macaque embryos. The gene, which causes jellyfish cells to produce a robust green glow, likewise conferred this activity on the placental cells where it was found.
"The infants produced here did not carry the gene in their DNA," Golos says, "but they did carry it and produce large amounts of the transgenic protein within their placentas during pregnancy."
In mammals, the placenta develops in the uterus from the embryo during gestation. Its role is to provide nourishment to the developing fetus and to transfer fetal wastes to the maternal circulation.
This new work, Golos says, will help provide a way to explore the role that individual genes play in pathologies of pregnancy. It promises new insight into such problems in maternal and fetal health as infertility, recurrent spontaneous miscarriage, and fetal growth and low birth weight.
"These are the most important issues in terms of a healthy pregnancy," Golos says. "A healthy placenta is a requirement for a healthy fetus. Placental defects and problems are the causes of significant fetal and maternal morbidity and mortality."
Because the green-glow gene can be seen in cells, it is a much used "reporter" gene that can tell scientists that it has been effectively delivered to the host cell.
The work reported today by the Wisconsin group is important because it is the first time a gene that has been transferred into a primate embryo has been shown to be functional thr
Contact: Thaddeus G. Golos
University of Wisconsin-Madison