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Genes Dev. 2000 Aug 15;14(16):2072-84.

Hypersensitivity to DNA damage leads to increased apoptosis during early mouse development.

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Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143-0452 USA.


Gastrulation in mice is associated with the start of extreme proliferation and differentiation. The potential cost to the embryo of a very rapid proliferation rate is a high production of damaged cells. We demonstrate a novel surveillance mechanism for the elimination of cells damaged by ionizing radiation during mouse gastrulation. During this restricted developmental window, the embryo becomes hypersensitive to DNA damage induced by low dose irradiation (<0.5 Gy) and undergoes apoptosis without cell cycle arrest. Intriguingly, embryonic cells, including germ cell progenitors, but not extraembryonic cells, become hypersensitive to genotoxic stress and undergo Atm- and p53-dependent apoptosis. Thus, hypersensitivity to apoptosis in the early mouse embryo is a cell fate-dependent mechanism to ensure genomic integrity during a period of extreme proliferation and differentiation.

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