Sirtuins are a phylogenetically conserved NAD+-dependent protein deacetylase/ADP-ribosyltransferase family implicated in diverse biological processes. Several family members localize to mitochondria, the function of which is thought to determine the developmental potential of preimplantation embryos. We have therefore characterized the role of sirtuins in mouse preimplantation development under in vitro culture conditions. All sirtuin members were expressed in eggs, and their expression gradually decreased until the blastocyst stage. Treatment with sirtuin inhibitors resulted in increased intracellular ROS levels and decreased blastocyst formation. These effects were recapitulated by siRNA-induced knockdown of Sirt3, which is involved in mitochondrial energy metabolism, and in Sirt3–/– embryos. The antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine and low-oxygen conditions rescued these adverse effects. When Sirt3-knockdown embryos were transferred to pseudopregnant mice after long-term culture, implantation and fetal growth rates were decreased, indicating that Sirt3-knockdown embryos were sensitive to in vitro conditions and that the effect was long lasting. Further experiments revealed that maternally derived Sirt3 was critical. Sirt3 inactivation increased mitochondrial ROS production, leading to p53 upregulation and changes in downstream gene expression. The inactivation of p53 improved the developmental outcome of Sirt3-knockdown embryos, indicating that the ROS-p53 pathway was responsible for the developmental defects. These results indicate that Sirt3 plays a protective role in preimplantation embryos against stress conditions during in vitro fertilization and culture.


Yumiko Kawamura, Yasunobu Uchijima, Nanao Horike, Kazuo Tonami, Koichi Nishiyama, Tomokazu Amano, Tomoichiro Asano, Yukiko Kurihara, Hiroki Kurihara


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