Mammalian embryonic diapause is a reproductive phenomenon defined by the reversible arrest in blastocyst development and metabolic activity within the uterus which synchronously becomes quiescent to implantation. This natural strategy, evident in over 130 species across eight orders, can temporally uncouple conception from delivery until conditions are favorable for the survival of the mother and newborn. While the maternal endocrine milieu has been shown to be important for this process, the local molecular mechanisms by which the uterus and embryo achieve quiescence, maintain blastocyst survival and then resumes blastocyst activation with subsequent implantation in response to endocrine cues remains unclear. Here we review the first evidence that the proximal molecular control of embryonic diapause is conserved in three unrelated mammalian species which employ different endocrine programs to initiate diapause. In particular, uterine expression of muscle segment homeobox (Msx) genes Msx1 or Msx2 persists during diapause, followed by downregulation with blastocyst reactivation and implantation. Mice (Mus musculus) with conditional inactivation of Msx1 and Msx2 in the uterus fail to achieve diapause and reactivation. Remarkably, the mink (Neovison vison) and tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) share this pattern of MSX1 or MSX2 expression as in mice during delay - it persists during diapause and is rapidly downregulated upon implantation. Therefore, these findings were the first to provide evidence that there are common conserved molecular regulators in the uterus of unrelated mammals during embryonic diapause.
© Third International Symposium on Embryonic Diapause