A fundamental problem in early mammalian development is the transformation of the highly differentiated oocyte into the totipotent blastomeres by the 2-cell stage. This remarkable transformation probably entails reprogramming the pattern of gene expression. The maternal-to-zygotic transition occurs during the 1-cell stage, i.e., 1-cell embryo is transcriptionally active. DNA replication is a likely locus of regulation, since DNA replication, with consequent nucleosome displacement, would serve to facilitate the access of maternally derived transcription factors to their cis-acting DNA-binding sequences. In fact, the first round of DNA replication is essential for the expression of two genes, eIF-1A and the transcription-requiring complex (TRC), as well as global transcription. A growing body of evidence suggests that a transcriptionally repressive state develops during the 2-cell stage. Interestingly, inhibiting the second round of DNA replication inhibits the decrease in expression of both the TRC and eIF-1A, as well as total endogenous gene expression. This repression may be linked to a change in chromatin structure, since treatment of 2-cell embryos with histone deacetylase inhibitors prevents the decrease in expression of the TRC and eIF-1A, and also inhibits the development of the transcriptionally repressive state for global gene expression. The findings that histone deacetylases can be targeted to chromatin provide a mechanism to link histone deacetylation with repression of gene expression. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 285:276-282, 1999.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.