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Mammals self-regulate their body size throughout development. In the uterus, embryos are properly regulated to be a specific size at birth. Previously, size and cell number in aggregated embryos, which were made from two or more morulae, and half embryos, which were halved at the 2-cell stage, have been analysed in vivo in preimplantation and post-implantation development in mice. Here, we examined whether or not the mouse embryo has the capacity to self-regulate growth using an in vitro culture system. To elucidate embryonic histology, cells were counted in aggregated or half embryos in comparison with control embryos. Both double- and triple-aggregated embryos contained more cells than did control embryos during all culture periods, and the relative growth ratios showed no growth inhibition in an in vitro culture system. Meanwhile, half embryos contained fewer cells than control embryos, but the number grew throughout the culture period. Our data suggest that the growth of aggregated embryos is not affected and continues in an in vitro culture system. On the other hand, the growth of half embryos accelerates and continues in an in vitro culture system. This situation, in turn, implied that post-implantation mouse embryos might have some potential to regulate their own growth and size as seen by using an in vitro culture system without uterus factors. In conclusion, our results indicated that embryos have some ways in which to regulate their own size in mouse early development.
Previously we have shown that mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase activity abruptly increases at the first metaphase (M1) and remains significantly higher than that at the germinal vesicle (GV) stage until the second metaphase (M2) in porcine oocytes cultured in vitro. The present paper describes how the mechanism of the blockage of meiotic maturation by protein sythesis inhibition involves MAP kinase regulation. Cycloheximide arrested both germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD) and the normal transition from M1 to M2. MAP kinase activation was also reduced in these maturation-inhibited oocytes. By using immunofluorescence microscopy with the monoclonal antibody raised against rat α-tubulin, we showed that cycloheximide caused morphological abnormality in a spindle at M1, but not at M2. All these results indicate that in porcine oocytes: (1) GV blockage by protein synthesis inhibition involves the suppression of both histone H1 kinase and MAP kinase activation, (2) during the transition from M1 to M2, maintenance of a normal metaphasic spindle and high MAP kinase activity require protein synthesis, and (3) once the M2 cytoskeletal structures have been completed, and/or after the ‘critical period’, cytostatic factor activity is independent of protein synthesis.
To investigate the involvement of mitogen-activated protein kinase(MAP kinase) in meiotic maturation of porcine oocytes, we assayed MAP kinase activity using basic protein(MBP) as a substrate. MAP kinase activity was low during the germinal vesicle stage, 0–20 h of culture. An abrupt increase was observed at metaphase I(30 h of culture), and activity remained significantly higher than that at 0 h until 50 h of culture, with a transient slight decrease at the time of first polar body extrusion (40 h). Detection of the kinase activity by an in-gel phosphorylation assay confirmed that the 42 and 44 kDa MAP kinases were significantly activated in 45 h cultured oocytes but not in 0 h oocytes, and just slightly in 20 h oocytes. In immunoblotting, however, the 42 and 44 kDa bands were detected in 0, 20 and 45 h cultured oocytes. Furthermore, the signal strength of the two bands did not change during the period of culture, but shifted up to 45 h, indicating that the activation of MAP kinase depended not on the synthesis but on the phosphorylation of this enzyme. These results suggest that the activation of MAP kinase is involved in the regulation of meiotic maturation of porcine oocytes, and especially in the regulation after germinal vesicle breakdown.
Phosphate induces 2-cell block in AKR/N mouse embryos in vitro. In an attempt to define the mechanism responsible for the inhibitory effect of phosphate, the critical period for this effect was determined. Then the amounts of the mRNAs for cyclin B and cdc25B, factors related to activation of M-phase promoting factor (MPF), were measured by quantitative reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction. Exposure to phosphate during the late 1-cell (10–20 h after insemination) and early 2-cell stages (0–12 h after first cleavage) was found to induce 2-cell block in AKR/N mouse embryos. This period corresponds to the initiation of zygotic gene activation (ZGA). The presence of phosphate during second cleavage had no effect on 2-cell block of the embryos. The relative levels of cyclin B and cdc25B mRNAs did not change significantly during the 1-cell stage and decreased during the early 2-cell stage to almost half of the initial levels. When the amounts of mRNA in embryos cultured with and without phosphate were compared they were found to be almost identical even in the 2-cell block embryos, and a significant decrease in mRNA was observed only 33 h after insemination in embryos about to undergo phosphate block at the 2-cell stage. These results show that phosphate does not directly inhibit MPF activity and confirm the presence of cyclin B and cdc25B even in 2-cell block embryos. Furthermore, the fact that the decrease in mRNA levels corresponded to the critical period for the inhibitory effect of phosphate suggests that suppression of initial ZGA induction is involved in the 2-cell block of mouse embryos in vitro.
Culturing of matured porcine oocytes in vitro results in the enhancement of their cytoplasmic ability for oocyte activation (so-called ageing), although they are arrested at metaphase II. The enhanced ability for oocyte activation is related to decreased activity of the maturation promoting factor (MPF). In the present study we clarified the molecular mechanism of MPF inactivation during ageing, especially the changes in the phosphorylation status of p34cdc2, a catalytic subunit of MPF, compared with that in fertilised oocytes. The MPF activity decreased gradually when maturation culture was prolonged from 36 to 72 h, confirming the decreasing MPF activity in aged oocytes. The activity of 48 h matured oocytes also decreased after in vitro fertilisation. Immunoblotting of p34cdc2 with anti-PSTAIRE antibody revealed that the culturing of matured oocytes induces a gradual increase in pre-MPF, which is a p34cdc2 and cyclin B complex inactivated by phosphorylation at the inhibitory phosphorylation site of p34cdc2. In contrast, pre-MPF decreased after fertilisation, indicating the degradation of cyclin B. These results suggest that the molecular mechanisms of inactivation of MPF are different between oocyte activation and ageing, and that the mechanism during ageing might be based on the inhibitory phosphorylation of p34cdc2, whereas that of oocyte activation is based on the degradation of cyclin B.
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