The step-wise assembly of a functional nucleolus, which occurs over the first few cell cycles during preimplantation development, is poorly understood. In this study, we examined the function of the evolutionary conserved nucleolar protein SURF6 in preimplantation mouse embryo development. Immunocytochemical analyses revealed that the localization of SURF6 was similar but not identical to those of fibrillarin and B23/nucleophosmin 1, which are involved in rRNA processing and ribosome biogenesis in mammalian somatic cells. Surf6 mRNA, which is expressed in oocytes and maternally inherited in the zygote, reached a peak level of expression during the 8-cell stage of embryo development, at which time rDNA is highly transcribed. Knock-down of Surf6 mRNA by RNAi led to a decrease in both the mRNA and protein levels, and resulted in developmental arrest at the 8-cell/morula stage, as well as a decrease in the level of 18S rRNA. These results suggest that Surf6 is essential for mouse preimplantation development, presumably by regulating ribosome biogenesis.
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