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Development. 2001 Oct;128(19):3819-30.

Cell survival and proliferation are modified by insulin-like growth factor 2 between days 9 and 10 of mouse gestation.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


The size of mammalian species involves the interaction of multiple genetic modifiers that control the timing and extent of growth mechanisms. Disruption of the paternal allele of the imprinted embryonic gene coding for insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2, Igf2(+m/-p)), results in viable mice that are 60% the weight of wild-type littermates. Differences in weight are first detected at embryonic day (E) 11, and the growth deficit is maintained throughout life. We report the mechanisms that account for this unusual phenotype. In order to quantify growth, we used novel methods to generate single cell suspensions of post-implantation mouse embryos. We were then able to quantify cell number, cell proliferation and cell death between E8.5 and E11.5 using flow cytometry. Determination of total embryo cell number also allowed us to time litters by a method other than by plugging. Wild-type and Igf2(+m/-p) embryos accumulated similar total cell numbers up to E9.25, but cell number began to diverge by around E9.5, with significant differences by E11 (75% of wild type). A relative increase in pyknotic nuclei, sub-GI cytometry counts and caspase activity, all indicative of cell death, occurred in Igf2(+m/-p) embryos at E9.25, reverting to wild-type levels by E9.75. This was followed at E9.75 by a significant reduction in the proportion of cells in S phase, quantified by S-phase cytometry counts and BrdU labelling. No significant differences in cell size were detected. We conclude that the majority of the cell number differences between wild-type and Igf2(+m/-p) mice can be accounted for by modification of cell survival and proliferation during the period (E9 to E10) of post-implantation development.

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