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Development August 1, 1997; 124 (16): 3185-95.

Developmentally regulated activation of apoptosis early in Xenopus gastrulation results in cyclin A degradation during interphase of the cell cycle.

Stack JH , Newport JW .

Previous work identified a developmental timer that controls the stability of cyclin A protein in interphase-arrested Xenopus embryos. It was shown that cyclins A1 and A2 abruptly become unstable in hydroxyurea-treated embryos at the time that untreated embryos are beginning gastrulation (early gastrulation transition; EGT). We have demonstrated here that cyclins A1 and A2 are degraded at the equivalent of the EGT by the ICE-like caspases that are responsible for programmed cell death or apoptosis. Analysis of embryos treated with hydroxyurea or cycloheximide showed widespread cellular apoptosis coincident with cyclin A cleavage. Our data further indicate that the apoptotic pathway is present in Xenopus embryos prior to the EGT; however, it is maintained in an inactive state in early cleaving embryos by maternally encoded inhibitors. Characterization of the timing of the activation of apoptosis implicates the initiation of zygotic transcription at the mid-blastula transition (MBT) in the suppression of apoptosis in normal embryos. The decreased biosynthetic capacity of embryos treated with hydroxyurea or cycloheximide most likely interferes with the ability to maintain sufficient levels of apoptotic inhibitors and results in widespread apoptosis. Our results suggest a scenario whereby the apoptotic pathway is suppressed in the early cleaving embryo by maternally contributed inhibitors. Degradation at the EGT of maternal RNAs encoding these inhibitors is compensated for by new zygotic transcription beginning at the MBT. This indicates that the interval between the MBT and the EGT represents a critical developmental period during which the regulation of embryonic cellular processes is transferred from maternal to zygotic control.

PubMed ID: 9272959
Article link: Development
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