Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Gene called Nanog from the egg cell promotes egg production and early embryonic development

07 March 2023

The Eggs Factor

Fertilised eggs contain hundreds of molecular ‘protein-building’ instructions called mRNAs. They need to be followed precisely in the right place, at the right time to create embryos. As egg cells, or oocytes, mature, they produce these mRNAs in preparation, but here’s the problem: accumulating these mRNAs before they're needed can hinder development. Quite a conundrum, but researchers have identified a protein that can balance being ready to spring into action with successful embryo development. Nanog is known to amplify mRNA messages in the early embryo. Now researchers have found that it helps silence pre-made mRNAs in eggs and how that impacts development. By injecting a dye (red) into fertilised oocytes, they followed how cells move during normal development (pictured). In oocytes without Nanog, this movement was more sluggish so embryos don’t develop properly. While the full extent of Nanog’s hidden talent needs to be uncovered, it’s clear that it is important for successful development.

Written by Sophie Arthur

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