Pre-implantation development is marked by many critical molecular events, including the maternal to zygotic transition and the first differentiation of cells. Understanding such events is important, for both basic reproductive biology and practical applications, including regenerative medicine and livestock production. Scarcity of materials has hampered the progress of the field, but systematic genomics approaches are beginning to be applied to the study of pre-implantation development, resulting in unprecedented amounts of data about the pre-implantation process. The first step in embryogenomics is to collect and sequence cDNAs (expressed sequence tags (ESTs)) for genes that are expressed and function in these early embryos. Mouse work is the most advanced, with 140 111 ESTs derived from all stages of pre-implantation development currently available in the public sequence database. For other mammals, at present only approximately 1000 ESTs can be found in the public database, but efforts by several groups are generating cDNA libraries and ESTs. In the present review, the current status of the implementation of these investigative tools for mammalian pre-implantation embryos is discussed.
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