The expression pattern and function of the murine endogenous retrovirus-like (MuERV-L) gene in mouse preimplantation embryos was investigated. MuERV-L was rapidly transcribed from the beginning of S phase (8 h after fertilization) in the first cell cycle. MuERV-L expression was completely repressed when transcription from the zygotic genome was inhibited by α-amanitin. These results reveal that MuERV-L is transcribed from the zygotic genome and that it is expressed earlier than any other genes previously reported. In addition, MuERV-L was expressed even when the first round of DNA synthesis was inhibited by aphidicolin, suggesting that its expression is controlled by the zygotic clock. The function of MuERV-L in the development of mouse embryos was also examined using antisense oligonucleotides. The developmental competence of embryos was markedly suppressed after the 4-cell stage when they were treated with antisense oligonucleotides. This result suggests that MuERV-L plays an important role in the development of mouse embryos at the early preimplantation stage.
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