The transition from meiotic to mitotic spindle assembly is gradual during early mammalian development.
Courtois, A., Schuh, M., Ellenberg, J. & Hiiragi, T.
J Cell Biol. 2012 Aug 6;198(3):357-70. Epub 2012 Jul 30.
The transition from meiosis to mitosis, classically defined by fertilization, is a fundamental process in development. However, its mechanism remains largely unexplored. In this paper, we report a surprising gradual transition from meiosis to mitosis over the first eight divisions of the mouse embryo. The first cleavages still largely share the mechanism of spindle formation with meiosis, during which the spindle is self-assembled from randomly distributed microtubule-organizing centers (MTOCs) without centrioles, because of the concerted activity of dynein and kinesin-5. During preimplantation development, the number of cellular MTOCs progressively decreased, the spindle pole gradually became more focused, and spindle length progressively scaled down with cell size. The typical mitotic spindle with centrin-, odf2-, kinesin-12-, and CP110-positive centrosomes was established only in the blastocyst. Overall, the transition from meiosis to mitosis progresses gradually throughout the preimplantation stage in the mouse embryo, thus providing a unique system to study the mechanism of centrosome biogenesis in vivo.
Stochastic patterning in the mouse pre-implantation embryo.
Dietrich, J.E. & Hiiragi, T.
Development. 2007 Dec;134(23):4219-31. Epub 2007 Oct 31.
Mouse pre-implantation development gives rise to the blastocyst, which is made up of at least three distinct cell types: the trophectoderm (TE) that surrounds a cavity, and an inner cell mass (ICM) comprising the primitive endoderm (PE) and epiblast (EPI). However, the underlying mechanisms involved in patterning the cleavage-stage embryo are still unresolved. By analyzing the distribution of the transcription factors Oct4 (Pou5f1), Cdx2 and Nanog at precisely defined stages in pre-implantation development, we were able to identify critical events leading to the divergence of TE, EPI and PE lineages. We found that Oct4 is present in all cells until late blastocyst, gradually disappearing from the TE thereafter. The expression patterns of both Cdx2 and Nanog exhibit two specific phases, culminating in their restriction to TE and EPI, respectively. In the first phase, starting after compaction, blastomeres show highly variable Cdx2 and Nanog protein levels. Importantly, the variability in Nanog levels is independent of position within the morula, whereas Cdx2 variability may originate from asymmetric cell divisions at the 8-cell stage in a non-stereotypic way. Furthermore, there is initially no reciprocal relationship between Cdx2 and Oct4 or between Cdx2 and Nanog protein levels. In the second phase, a definite pattern is established, possibly by a sorting process that accommodates intrinsic and extrinsic cues. Based on these results, we propose a model in which early embryonic mouse patterning includes stochastic processes, consistent with the highly regulative capacity of the embryo. This may represent a feature unique to early mammalian development.
Polarity of the mouse embryo is established at blastocyst and is not prepatterned.
Motosugi, N., Bauer, T., Polanski, Z., Solter, D. & Hiiragi, T.
Genes Dev. 2005 May 1;19(9):1081-92.
Polarity formation in mammalian preimplantation embryos has long been a subject of controversy. Mammalian embryos are highly regulative, which has led to the conclusion that polarity specification does not exist until the blastocyst stage; however, some recent reports have now suggested polarity predetermination in the egg. Our recent time-lapse recordings have demonstrated that the first cleavage plane is not predetermined in the mouse egg. Here we show that, in contrast to previous claims, two-cell blastomeres do not differ and their precise future contribution to the inner cell mass and/or the trophectoderm cannot be anticipated. Thus, all evidence so far strongly suggests the absence of predetermined axes in the mouse egg. We observe that the ellipsoidal zona pellucida exerts mechanical pressure and
First cleavage plane of the mouse egg is not predetermined but defined by the topology of the two apposing pronuclei.
Hiiragi, T. & Solter, D.
Nature. 2004 Jul 15;430(6997):360-4.
Studies of experimentally manipulated embryos have led to the long-held conclusion that the polarity of the mouse embryo remains undetermined until the blastocyst stage. However, recent studies reporting that the embryonic-abembryonic axis of the blastocyst arises perpendicular to the first cleavage plane, and hence to the animal-vegetal axis of the zygote, have led to the claim that the axis of the mouse embryo is already specified in the egg. Here we show that there is no specification of the axis in the egg. Time-lapse recordings show that the second polar body does not mark a stationary animal pole, but instead, in half of the embryos, moves towards a first cleavage plane. The first cleavage plane coincides with the plane defined by the two apposing pronuclei once they have moved to the centre of the egg. Pronuclear transfer experiments confirm that the first cleavage plane is not determined in early interphase but rather is specified by the newly formed topology of the two pronuclei. The microtubule networks that allow mixing of parental chromosomes before dividing into two may be involved in these processes.
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