We have developed a method to monitor noninvasively, quantitatively, and in real-time transcription in living preimplantation mouse embryos by measuring expression of a short half-life form of enhanced green fluoresecent protein (EGFP) following microinjection of a plasmid-borne EGFP reporter gene. A standard curve was established by injecting known amounts of recombinant green fluorescent protein, and transcriptional activity was then determined by interpolating the amount of fluoresence in the DNA-injected embryos. This approach permitted multiple measurements in single embryos with no significant detrimental effect on embryonic development as long as light exposure was brief (<30 sec) and no more than two measurements were made each day. This method should facilitate analysis of the regulation of gene expression in preimplantation embryos; in particular, during the maternal-to-zygotic transition, and in other species in which limited numbers of embryos are available.
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