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In 1996, Tony Perry joined the laboratory of Ryuzo Yanagimachi, where he was part of the team that developed mammalian nuclear transfer cloning and transgenesis by sperm injection (ICSI).  He continued this work at the Rockefeller University before joining RIKEN, Japan, to study the earliest events of development after fertilisation, including the mechanism of meiotic exit.  Tony joined the University of Bath in 2010 and is currently integrating themes of the last 25 years to study and manipulate processes in one-cell mouse and human embryos.


At the moment of union in fertilisation, sperm and oocyte are transcriptionally silent, but little is understood about how transcription initiates in the newly-formed embryo.  In this talk, I shall suggest why this fundamental process has remained arcane for so long, and how my lab has sought to unlock its secrets in mouse and human embryos.  By combining micromanipulation and single-cell RNA-sequencing, we have revealed a programme of embryonic transcription initiation beginning within four hours of fertilisation in the mouse.  The talk will outline how we have sought to characterise this initiating transcription and its conservation in human one-cell embryos.  Transcribed genes predict regulation by oncogenic factors, including c-Myc, whose features will be detailed, together with a model suggesting predictive parallels between the onset of embryogenesis and cancer.