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Cell Cycle. 2013 Oct 15;12(20):3336-44. doi: 10.4161/cc.26327. Epub 2013 Sep 12.

Laser microbeam-induced DNA damage inhibits cell division in fertilized eggs and early embryos.

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State Key Laboratory of Reproductive Biology; Institute of Zoology; Chinese Academy of Sciences; Beijing, China.


DNA double-strand breaks are caused by both intracellular physiological processes and environmental stress. In this study, we used laser microbeam cut (abbreviated microcut or cut), which allows specific DNA damage in the pronucleus of a fertilized egg and in individual blastomere(s) of an early embryo, to investigate the response of early embryos to DNA double-strand breaks. Line type γH2AX foci were detected in the cut region, while Chk2 phosphorylation staining was observed in the whole nuclear region of the cut pronuclei or blastomeres. Zygotes with cut male or female pronucleus showed poor developmental capability: the percentage of cleavage embryos was significantly decreased, and the embryos failed to complete further development to blastocysts. The cut blastomeres in 2-cell, 4-cell, and 8-cell embryos ceased cleavage, and they failed to incorporate into compacted morulae, but instead underwent apoptosis and cell death at the blastocyst stage; the uncut part of embryos could develop to blastocysts, with a reduced percentage or decreased cell number. When both blastomeres of the 2-cell embryos were cut by laser microbeam, cell death occurred 24 h earlier, suggesting important functions of the uncut blastomere in delaying cell death of the cut blastomere. Taken together, we conclude that microbeam-induced DNA damage in early embryos causes compromised development, and that embryos may have their own mechanisms to exclude DNA-damaged blastomeres from participating in further development.


DNA damage; blastomeres; embryos; laser micro beam; zygotes

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