Maternally-preset program of apoptosis and caspases involved in execution of the apoptosis at midblastula transition (MBT) but not before in Xenopus laevis embryogenesis

DOI: 10.4236/abb.2012.326096   PDF   HTML     3,220 Downloads   5,615 Views   Citations


To study gene control mechanisms in Xenopus embryos, we analyzed polyamines, cloned SAMDC (S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase), a key enzyme of polyamine metabolism, and microinjected its mRNA into Xenopus fertilized eggs. The microinjection induced a large increase in SAMDC activity, exhaustion of the substrate SAM (S-adenosylmethionine), and execution of apoptosis at the stage called midblastula transition (MBT). By tracing GFP (green fluorescence protein)-marked apoptotic cells, we reached a conclusion that the apoptosis provides pre-blastula embryos with a fail-safe mechanism of early development. We analyzed caspase mRNAs and found that caspase-9 and -3 mRNAs are maternal mRNA and activation of caspase-9 is one of the key steps for the execution of the apoptosis. We also found that over- expression of caspase-8, and in addition p53, a tumor suppressor protein, also induces apoptosis at MBT, just like the overexpression of SAMDC and caspase-9 does. The apoptosis induced by p53 was suppressed by Xdm-2, a negative regulator of p53, and by a peptide inhibitor and a dominant-negative type mutant of caspase-9, but not by those of caspase-8. By contrast, apoptosis induced by SAMDC was suppressed by peptide inhibitors and dominant-negative mutants of both caspase-9 and caspase-8, but not by Xdm-2. Unlike caspase-9 mRNA, caspase-8 mRNA was not a maternal mRNA, but newly expressed during cleavage stage (pre-MBT stage) only in embryos overexpressed with SAMDC. In SAMDC-induced apoptotic embryos activities to process procaspase-8 and procaspase-9 appeared, whereas in p53-induced apoptotic embryos only activity to process procaspase-9 appeared. Thus, Xenopus embryos have at least two pathways to execute the maternal program of apoptosis: One induced by SAMDC overexpression through activation of caspase-9 and do novo expression of caspase-8 gene, and the other induced by p53 overexpression through activation of caspase-9 but not caspase-8. In Xenopus embryos, it has long been believed that zygotic genes are silent until MBT, but results obtained with caspase-8 may provide a novel example of gene expression before MBT.

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Shiokawa, K. (2012) Maternally-preset program of apoptosis and caspases involved in execution of the apoptosis at midblastula transition (MBT) but not before in Xenopus laevis embryogenesis. Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology, 3, 751-769. doi: 10.4236/abb.2012.326096.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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