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1.  Allophagy 
Autophagy  2012;8(3):421-423.
In most animals, during oocyte fertilization the spermatozoon provides DNA and centrioles together with some cytoplasm and organelles, but paternal mitochondria are generally eliminated in the embryo. Using the model animal C. elegans we have shown that paternal organelle degradation is dependent on the formation of autophagosomes a few minutes after fertilization. This macroautophagic process is preceded by an active ubiquitination of some spermatozoon-inherited organelles. Analysis of fertilized mouse embryos suggests that this autophagy event is evolutionarily conserved.
PMCID: PMC3337843  PMID: 22361582
C. elegans; fertilization; LGG-1; LGG-2; mitophagy
2.  Orientation of Mitotic Spindles during the 8- to 16-Cell Stage Transition in Mouse Embryos 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8171.
Asymmetric cell divisions are involved in the divergence of the first two lineages of the pre-implantation mouse embryo. They first take place after cell polarization (during compaction) at the 8-cell stage. It is thought that, in contrast to many species, spindle orientation is random, although there is no direct evidence for this.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Tubulin-GFP and live imaging with a spinning disk confocal microscope were used to directly study spindle orientation in whole embryos undergoing the 8- to 16-cell stage transition. This approach allowed us to determine that there is no predetermined cleavage pattern in 8-cell compacted mouse embryos and that mitotic spindle orientation in live embryo is only modulated by the extent of cell rounding up during mitosis.
These results clearly demonstrate that spindle orientation is not controlled at the 8- to 16-cell transition, but influenced by cell bulging during mitosis, thus reinforcing the idea that pre-implantation development is highly regulative and not pre-patterned.
PMCID: PMC2781390  PMID: 19997595
3.  Inactivation of aPKCλ Reveals a Context Dependent Allocation of Cell Lineages in Preimplantation Mouse Embryos 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e7117.
During mammalian preimplantation development, lineage divergence seems to be controlled by the interplay between asymmetric cell division (once cells are polarized) and positional information. In the mouse embryo, two distinct cell populations are first observed at the 16-cell stage and can be distinguished by both their position (outside or inside) and their phenotype (polarized or non-polarized). Many efforts have been made during the last decade to characterize the molecular mechanisms driving lineage divergence.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In order to evaluate the importance of cell polarity in the determination of cell fate we have disturbed the activity of the apical complex aPKC/PAR6 using siRNA to down-regulate aPKCλ expression. Here we show that depletion of aPKCλ results in an absence of tight junctions and in severe polarity defects at the 16-cell stage. Importantly, we found that, in absence of aPKCλ, cell fate depends on the cellular context: depletion of aPKCλ in all cells results in a strong reduction of inner cells at the 16-cell stage, while inhibition of aPKCλ in only half of the embryo biases the progeny of aPKCλ defective blastomeres towards the inner cell mass. Finally, our study points to a role of cell shape in controlling cell position and thus lineage allocation.
Our data show that aPKCλ is dispensable for the establishment of polarity at the 8-cell stage but is essential for the stabilization of cell polarity at the 16-cell stage and for cell positioning. Moreover, this study reveals that in addition to positional information and asymmetric cell divisions, cell shape plays an important role for the control of lineage divergence during mouse preimplantation development. Cell shape is able to influence both the type of division (symmetric or asymmetric) and the position of the blastomeres within the embryo.
PMCID: PMC2741596  PMID: 19768116
4.  Murine Endogenous Retrovirus MuERV-L Is the Progenitor of the “Orphan” Epsilon Viruslike Particles of the Early Mouse Embryo▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;82(3):1622-1625.
Viruslike particles which displayed a peculiar wheellike appearance that distinguished them from A-, B- or C-type particles had previously been described in the early mouse embryo. The maximum expression of these so-called epsilon particles was observed in two-cell-stage embryos, followed by their rapid decline at later stages of development and no particles detected at the zygote one-cell stage. Here, we show that these particles are in fact produced by a newly discovered murine endogenous retrovirus (ERV) belonging to the widespread family of mammalian ERV-L elements and named MuERV-L. Using antibodies that we raised against the Gag protein of these elements, Western blot analysis and in toto immunofluorescence studies of the embryos at various stages disclosed the same developmental expression profile as that observed for epsilon particles. Using expression vectors for cloned, full-length, entirely coding MuERV-L copies and cell transfection, direct identification of the epsilon particles was finally achieved by high-resolution electron microscopy.
PMCID: PMC2224431  PMID: 18045933

Results 1-4 (4)