We have been studying control mechanisms of gene expression in early embryogenesis in a South African clawed toad Xenopus laevis, especially during the period of midblastula transition (MBT), or the transition from the phase of active cell division (cleavage stage) to the phase of extensive morphogenesis (post-blastular stages). We first found that ribosomal RNA synthesis is initiated shortly after MBT in Xenopus embryos and those weak bases, such as amines and ammonium ion, selectively inhibit the initiation and subsequent activation of rRNA synthesis. We then found that rapidly labeled heterogeneous mRNA-like RNA is synthesized in embryos at pre-MBT stage. We then performed cloning and expression studies of several genes, such as those for activin receptors, follistatin and aldolases, and then reached the studies of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase (SAMDC), a key enzyme in polyamine metabolism. Here, we cloned a Xenopus SAMDC cDNA and performed experiments to overexpress the in vitro-synthesized SAMDC mRNA in Xenopus early embryos, and found that the maternally preset program of apoptosis occurs in cleavage stage embryos, which is executed when embryos reach the stage of MBT. In the present article, we first summarize results on SAMDC and the maternal program of apoptosis, and then describe our studies on small-molecular-weight substances like polyamines, amino acids, and amines in Xenopus embryos. Finally, we summarize our studies on weak bases, especially on ammonium ion, as the specific inhibitor of ribosomal RNA synthesis in Xenopus embryonic cells.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Organic Chemistry
- Clinical Biochemistry