Andrew J. Watson


Andrew Watson

PH.D.  University of Western Ontario
M.Sc. University of Manitoba
B.Sc. University of Manitoba
Office: Victoria Research Labs, Room A5-136
Phone: (519) 685-8500 Ext. 55068
Fax: (519) 685-8186
See Publications by Andrew Watson on PubMed

Research investigating oocyte maturation, fertilization, and embryonic development is necessary for improved assisted reproductive technologies in animals and humans, and to reveal the causes of abnormal embryonic development. Pregnancy rates following transfer of human embryos produced by the application of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) remain low and one of the principal factors contributing to this outcome is the use of asynchronous embryo-uterine transfers. This type of embryo transfer is employed largely because of an inability to support the development of healthy human preimplantation embryos to the blastocyst stage in vitro. There is a great need to characterize the specific mechanisms controlling early mammalian development to improve success of mammalian embryo culture and, in particular, to develop ways of assessing the health of in vitro derived embryos. Our research is directed at defining the cellular and molecular mechanisms that support development to the blastocyst stage. Blastocyst formation is targeted because this morphogenetic event is dependent upon zygotic transcriptional activity and the blastocyst is an important end point for assessing embryo health.

Research Activities
Our studies investigate the function of gene families that coordinate trophectoderm differentiation (the first epithelium) and blastocyst formation, and have included growth factors; growth factor binding proteins; anti-oxidant enzymes; cell adhesion molecules; tight-junction associated polypeptides; Na/K-ATPase isoforms; aquaporin water channels (AQPs); and most recently RhoGTPases and p38 MAPK signalling pathway members. Our research investigates these events during both mouse and cow preimplantation development. Both of these species are important models for human early development. The use of the mouse species provides an opportunity to investigate gene function in transgenic and "gene knock-out lines" while the cow shares many reproductive events with the human including: 1) length of reproductive cycles; 2) ovulation rates; 3) sperm donation of centrosomes; 4) delayed full activation of embryonic transcriptional activity; and 5) similar cleavage and blastocyst formation frequencies in vitro.

Research Programs include:
1) Characterizing the role of the maternal environment in supporting preimplantation development (NSERC 1993-2010); 2) Characterization of Serum Free Culture Conditions for Oocyte Maturation (NIH"Culture Club 1996-2000); 3) Defining the molecular events that contribute to the formation of the blastocyst (MRC 1994-1997; CIHR 2001-2004; CIHR 2004-2007); and 4) Strategic Initiative from the Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health, AHealthy Gametes Great Embryos@ (2003-2007) ATowards single embryo transfer in the human@ Tom Kennedy PI; Co-investigators Dr(s) Casper (U of T), Varmuza (U of T), Rancourt (Ucalgary), Nisker, Newton, Kidder, Feyles, Power, Tekpetey and Watson (UWO).

Violette MI, Madan P, Watson AJ. Na+/K+ -ATPase regulates tight junction formation and function during mouse preimplantation development. Dev Biol. 2006 Jan 15;289(2):406-19. Epub 2005 Dec 13.

De Sousa PA, Winger Q, Hill JR, Jones K, Watson AJ, Westhusin ME. Reprogramming of fibroblast nuclei after transfer into bovine oocytes. Cloning. 1999;1(1):63-9.

Kidder GM, Watson AJ. Roles of Na,K-ATPase in early development and trophectoderm differentiation. Semin Nephrol. 2005 Sep;25(5):352-5.

Madan P, Calder MD, Watson AJ. Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) blockade of bovine preimplantation embryogenesis requires inhibition of both p38 and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathways. Reproduction. 2005 Jul;130(1):41-51.

Paliga AJ, Natale DR, Watson AJ. p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) first regulates filamentous actin at the 8-16-cell stage during preimplantation development. Biol Cell. 2005 Aug; 97(8):629-40.

Innovation and Excellence in Research and Teaching