Wee1 kinase alters cyclin E/Cdk2 and promotes apoptosis during the early embryonic development of Xenopus laevis
Wroble, Brian N.
Finkielstein, Carla V.
Sible, Jill C.
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Background The cell cycles of the Xenopus laevis embryo undergo extensive remodeling beginning at the midblastula transition (MBT) of early development. Cell divisions 2-12 consist of rapid cleavages without gap phases or cell cycle checkpoints. Some remodeling events depend upon a critical nucleo-cytoplasmic ratio, whereas others rely on a maternal timer controlled by cyclin E/Cdk2 activity. One key event that occurs at the MBT is the degradation of maternal Wee1, a negative regulator of cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk) activity. Results In order to assess the effect of Wee1 on embryonic cell cycle remodeling, Wee1 mRNA was injected into one-cell stage embryos. Overexpression of Wee1 caused cell cycle delay and tyrosine phosphorylation of Cdks prior to the MBT. Furthermore, overexpression of Wee1 disrupted key developmental events that normally occur at the MBT such as the degradation of Cdc25A, cyclin E, and Wee1. Overexpression of Wee1 also resulted in post-MBT apoptosis, tyrosine phosphorylation of Cdks and persistence of cyclin E/Cdk2 activity. To determine whether Cdk2 was required specifically for the survival of the embryo, the cyclin E/Cdk2 inhibitor, Δ34-Xic1, was injected in embryos and also shown to induce apoptosis. Conclusion Taken together, these data suggest that Wee1 triggers apoptosis through the disruption of the cyclin E/Cdk2 timer. In contrast to Wee1 and Δ34-Xic1, altering Cdks by expression of Chk1 and Chk2 kinases blocks rather than promotes apoptosis and causes premature degradation of Cdc25A. Collectively, these data implicate Cdc25A as a key player in the developmentally regulated program of apoptosis in X. laevis embryos.