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Life Support

Role of mitochondria in establishing the maternal epigenome and implications for embryo development revealed

12 August 2022

Life Support

Getting from fertilised egg to viable embryo is a labour-intensive process with endless logistics and huge energy demands. Oocytes, or egg cells, completely rely on a part of the cell called mitochondria for ATP – their source of energy. To keep up with energy demands, the number of mitochondria in an oocyte needs to boom from 1,000 to 300,000 through a process called mitochondrial fission – splitting into two. This splitting is driven by a protein called DRP1, but how DRP1 and fission affect embryo development was unclear. Deleting DRP1 from mouse oocytes meant that crucial genes that kickstart development couldn’t be switched on. The switches in the form of methylation marks (shown in green and magenta) are lost from the DNA without DRP1, and so the embryos cannot survive. Together, this shows how important the mitochondria are to the early stages of embryo development and survival.

Written by Sophie Arthur

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