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BMC Cell Biol. 2005 Dec 20;6:47.

Characterization of sub-nuclear changes in Caenorhabditis elegans embryos exposed to brief, intermediate and long-term anoxia to analyze anoxia-induced cell cycle arrest.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Texas, Denton, TX, 76203, USA.



The soil nematode C. elegans survives oxygen-deprived conditions (anoxia; <.001 kPa O2) by entering into a state of suspended animation in which cell cycle progression reversibly arrests. The majority of blastomeres of embryos exposed to anoxia arrest at interphase, prophase and metaphase. The spindle checkpoint proteins SAN-1 and MDF-2 are required for embryos to survive 24 hours of anoxia. To further investigate the mechanism of cell-cycle arrest we examined and compared sub-nuclear changes such as chromatin localization pattern, post-translational modification of histone H3, spindle microtubules, and localization of the spindle checkpoint protein SAN-1 with respect to various anoxia exposure time points. To ensure analysis of embryos exposed to anoxia and not post-anoxic recovery we fixed all embryos in an anoxia glove box chamber.


Embryos exposed to brief periods to anoxia (30 minutes) contain prophase blastomeres with chromosomes in close proximity to the nuclear membrane, condensation of interphase chromatin and metaphase blastomeres with reduced spindle microtubules density. Embryos exposed to longer periods of anoxia (1-3 days) display several characteristics including interphase chromatin that is further condensed and in close proximity to the nuclear membrane, reduction in spindle structure perimeter and reduced localization of SAN-1 at the kinetochore. Additionally, we show that the spindle checkpoint protein SAN-1 is required for brief periods of anoxia-induced cell cycle arrest, thus demonstrating that this gene product is vital for early anoxia responses. In this report we suggest that the events that occur as an immediate response to brief periods of anoxia directs cell cycle arrest.


From our results we conclude that the sub-nuclear characteristics of embryos exposed to anoxia depends upon exposure time as assayed using brief (30 minutes), intermediate (6 or 12 hours) or long-term (24 or 72 hours) exposures. Analyzing these changes will lead to an understanding of the mechanisms required for initiation and maintenance of cell cycle arrest in respect to anoxia exposure time as well as order the events that occur to bring about anoxia-induced cell cycle arrest.

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