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Autophagy Is Essential for Preimplantation Development of Mouse Embryos

Autophagic degradation within early embryos seems to be essential for preimplantation development in mammals. A research group from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan analysed the degradation of maternal proteins in oocytes upon fertilisation.
Usually, maternal proteins are degraded in oocytes after fertilisation and new proteins are synthesised that are encoded by the new zygotic genome. The scientists found that autophagy, a catabolic process to degrade cell's own components in its lysosomes, was triggered by fertilisation and up-regulated in early murine embryos.

(autophagy-related 5) knockout mice were used to obtain autophagy-defective oocytes. Those oocytes were unable to develop further than four- or eight-cell stages if they were fertilised with -/- sperm. Fertilisation with wild-type sperm resulted in normal development of the embryos. The rate of protein synthesis was reduced in -/- embryos.

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