Dual-spindle formation in zygotes keeps parental genomes apart in early mammalian embryos

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Science  13 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6398, pp. 189-193
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar7462

It takes two to tango

Fusion of egg and sperm combines the genetic material of both parents in one cell. In mammals, including humans, each parental genome is initially confined in a separate pronucleus. For the new organism to develop, the two genomes must be spatially coordinated so that the first embryonic division can create two cells that combine both genomes in one nucleus. Reichmann et al. found that at the beginning of the first division, two microtubule spindles organize the maternal and paternal chromosomes and subsequently align to segregate the parental genomes in parallel (see the Perspective by Zielinska and Schuh). Failure of spindle alignment led to two-celled embryos with more than one nucleus per cell. Dual-spindle assembly in the zygote thus offers a potential mechanistic explanation for division errors frequently observed in human embryos in the fertility clinic.

Science, this issue p. 189; see also p. 128


At the beginning of mammalian life, the genetic material from each parent meets when the fertilized egg divides. It was previously thought that a single microtubule spindle is responsible for spatially combining the two genomes and then segregating them to create the two-cell embryo. We used light-sheet microscopy to show that two bipolar spindles form in the zygote and then independently congress the maternal and paternal genomes. These two spindles aligned their poles before anaphase but kept the parental genomes apart during the first cleavage. This spindle assembly mechanism provides a potential rationale for erroneous divisions into more than two blastomeric nuclei observed in mammalian zygotes and reveals the mechanism behind the observation that parental genomes occupy separate nuclear compartments in the two-cell embryo.

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