Mechanisms of cell cycle remodeling at the MBT during the development of Xenopus laevis embryos


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Virginia Tech


During the early development of Xenopus laevis embryos, cells divide without checkpoints. At the midblastula transition (MBT), the cell cycle is remodeled as the division time lengthens and checkpoints are acquired. Initiation of the MBT depends upon the degradation of maternally supplied cyclin E, which is the regulatory partner of the cyclin dependent kinase, Cdk2. To study the program that drives cyclin E degradation and cell cycle remodeling at the MBT, embryos were treated with two cell cycle inhibitors, GST-D34Xic1 and XChk1.

Injection of embryos with GST-D34Xic1, a stoichiometric inhibitor of cyclin E/Cdk2, delays degradation of cyclin E and onset of the MBT. GST-D34Xic1 lowers Wee1 level, a kinase that maintains Cdks in an inactivate state. Eventual degradation of cyclin E is preceded by degradation of GST-D34Xic1. The mathematical modelers, Andrea Ciliberto and John Tyson, incorporated the data into a kinetic model and set of ordinary differential equations. The model accurately described the experimental data and made additional predictions, which were tested experimentally.

Additionally, embryos were injected with mRNA encoding XChk1, a kinase that activates Wee1 and inhibits Cdc25, the phosphatase opposing Wee1. Like GST-D34Xic1, XChk1 inhibits cyclin E/Cdk2 and delays the degradation of cyclin E. In contrast to GST-D34Xic1, XChk1 elevates the level of Wee1 at a time when sibling controls begin the MBT, despite cell cycle arrest.

Since XChk1 inhibits both Cdk1 and Cdk2, and GST-D34Xic1 inhibits only Cdk2, we propose Cdk1 destabilizes Wee1, whereas Cdk2 elevates Wee1 level. Prior to the MBT, when cyclin E/Cdk2 is active, Wee1 is maintained. After cyclin E/Cdk2 is destroyed at the MBT, Wee1 is degraded.



cyclin E/Cdk2, XChk1, Xenopus, Xic1, developmental timer, Wee1