The advent of microarray technology, coupled with the availability of mouse cDNA collections derived specifically from preimplantation embryos, helps to provide global gene expression profiles for the earliest stages of development. However, to determine the functions of the large numbers of genes of interest, massive systematic functional assays such as gene 'knockdown' experiments are required. As a first step, the relative suppression of blastocyst formation by differentially-modified antisense oligonucleotides to E-cadherin was assayed. The injection of 2′-methoxyethoxy (2′-MOE)-modified oligonucleotides blocked the formation of blastocysts in two-thirds of embryos, whereas the injection of either control missense 2′-MOE-oligonucleotides, or oligonucleotides with a Morpholino modification, had no significant effect on embryonic development. Thus, the 2′-MOE-modified antisense oligonucleotides are candidates for effective examination of roles of large numbers of genes during early embryological development.
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