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Science. 2008 Jul 4;321(5885):117-20. doi: 10.1126/science.1154822.

Autophagy is essential for preimplantation development of mouse embryos.

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Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, 1-5-45 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8519, Japan.


After fertilization, maternal proteins in oocytes are degraded and new proteins encoded by the zygotic genome are synthesized. We found that autophagy, a process for the degradation of cytoplasmic constituents in the lysosome, plays a critical role during this period. Autophagy was triggered by fertilization and up-regulated in early mouse embryos. Autophagy-defective oocytes derived from oocyte-specific Atg5 (autophagy-related 5) knockout mice failed to develop beyond the four- and eight-cell stages if they were fertilized by Atg5-null sperm, but could develop if they were fertilized by wild-type sperm. Protein synthesis rates were reduced in the autophagy-null embryos. Thus, autophagic degradation within early embryos is essential for preimplantation development in mammals.

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