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Mol Reprod Dev. 2003 Jan;64(1):41-51.

Differential pattern of Xist RNA accumulation in single blastomeres isolated from 8-cell stage mouse embryos following laser zona drilling.

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Department of Biology, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454-9110, USA.


Xist gene expression begins at the late 2-cell stage in female mouse embryos and by the third division results in the accumulation of an average 100 copies of Xist RNA per cell, as measured by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). In the blastocyst, the trophectoderm maintains the paternally imprinted pattern of Xist expression present during early development, while either the maternal or the paternal X chromosome can express Xist among cells of the inner mass. Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) has previously established that Xist transcripts are localized on the silenced X chromosome, forming aggregates of variable dimensions in blastomeres of 8-cell embryos. This observation and the fact that Xist RNA accumulation per cell sharply decreases after morula stage raise the possibility that cells of cleaving embryos contain different levels of Xist RNA, perhaps linked to their subsequent developmental fates. We show here that Xist RNA is efficiently recovered from single blastomeres isolated from 8-cell embryos following laser zona drilling. Sexing of the samples and simultaneous quantification of Xist RNA in individual cells is achieved with a multiplex Xist/Sry real-time RT-PCR assay sensitive to the single-copy level. This analysis reveals that Xist RNA is indeed accumulated to substantially different levels in individual blastomeres of the same 8-cell embryo and that two blastomeres contain most of the molecules per embryo. These results support the conclusion that cells of the early mammalian embryo are not all functionally equivalent. Differential Xist gene expression could arise from differences in DNA methylation, or the order in which cells divide.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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