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What makes a good egg and healthy embryo?
Date:8/9/2010

tch so the egg can progress through the final stages of meiosis. Meiosis is when the egg sheds all but one copy of its maternal chromosomes before it can be fertilized by a sperm and become an embryo.

"Zinc helps the egg exit from a holding pattern to its final critical stage of development," said O'Halloran, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. "It's on the knife's edge of becoming a new life form or becoming a cell that dies. It only has 24 hours. Zinc seems to be a key switch that helps control whether the egg moves forward in its development stage. "

Kim found there were approximately 60 billion zinc atoms in a mouse egg just before the egg was ready to be fertilized. She measured the zinc content of the eggs using a technique called synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence microscopy through collaboration with the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. This method allowed detection of multiple metals in single eggs using the characteristic X-ray signature of each element.

Zinc levels were significantly higher in eggs than other important metals such as iron and copper. Zinc was the only metal to change significantly in concentration during the maturation process.

Northwestern scientists also used small molecules to block the accumulation of zinc by the maturing egg. They found an insufficient accumulation of zinc caused all the eggs to pause prematurely at the beginning stage of meiosis. The progression of meiosis was restored by returning zinc to the eggs.


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Contact: Marla Paul
marla-paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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