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Genes Dev. 2007 Mar 15;21(6):644-8.

Maternal microRNAs are essential for mouse zygotic development.

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Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1QN, United Kingdom.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have important roles in diverse cellular processes, but little is known about their identity and functions during early mammalian development. Here, we show the effects of the loss of maternal inheritance of miRNAs following specific deletion of Dicer from growing oocytes. The mutant mature oocytes were almost entirely depleted of all miRNAs, and they failed to progress through the first cell division, probably because of disorganized spindle formation. By comparing single-cell cDNA microarray profiles of control and mutant oocytes, our data are compatible with the notion that a large proportion of the maternal genes are directly or indirectly under the control of miRNAs, which demonstrates that the maternal miRNAs are essential for the earliest stages of mouse embryonic development.

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