Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are associated with several complications including low birth weight, abnormal placentation and increased risk for rare imprinting disorders. Indeed, experimental studies demonstrate ART procedures independent of existing infertility induce epigenetic perturbations in the embryo and extraembryonic tissues. To test the hypothesis that these epigenetic perturbations persist and result in adverse outcomes at term, we assessed placental morphology and methylation profiles in E18.5 mouse concepti generated by in vitro fertilization (IVF) in two different genetic backgrounds. We also examined embryo transfer (ET) and superovulation procedures to ascertain if they contribute to developmental and epigenetic effects. Increased placental weight and reduced fetal-to-placental weight ratiowere observed in all ART groups when compared with naturally conceived controls, demonstrating that non-surgical embryo transfer alone can impact placental development. Furthermore, superovulation further induced overgrowth of the placental junctional zone. Embryo transfer and superovulation defectswere limited to these morphological changes, aswe did not observe any differences in epigenetic profiles. IVF placentae, however, displayed hypomethylation of imprinting control regions of select imprinted genes and a global reduction in DNA methylation levels. Althoughwe did not detect significant differences in DNA methylation in fetal brain or liver samples, rare IVF concepti displayed very low methylation and abnormal gene expression from the normally repressed allele. Our findings suggest that individual ART procedures cumulatively increase placental morphological abnormalities and epigenetic perturbations, potentially causing adverse neonatal and long-term health outcomes in offspring.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology