Eggs of all animals contain mRNAs and proteins that are supplied to or deposited in the egg as it develops during oogenesis. These maternal gene products regulate all aspects of oocyte development, and an embryo fully relies on these maternal gene products for all aspects of its early development, including fertilization, transitions between meiotic and mitotic cell cycles, and activation of its own genome. Given the diverse processes required to produce a developmentally competent egg and embryo, it is not surprising that maternal gene products are not only essential for normal embryonic development but also for fertility. This review provides an overview of fundamental aspects of oocyte and early embryonic development and the interference and genetic approaches that have provided access to maternally regulated aspects of vertebrate development. Some of the pathways and molecules highlighted in this review, in particular, Bmps, Wnts, small GTPases, cytoskeletal components, and cell cycle regulators, are well known and are essential regulators of multiple aspects of animal development, including oogenesis, early embryogenesis, organogenesis, and reproductive fitness of the adult animal. Specific examples of developmental processes under maternal control and the essential proteins will be explored in each chapter, and where known conserved aspects or divergent roles for these maternal regulators of early vertebrate development will be discussed throughout this review.
Table of Contents
Oogenesis: From Germline Stem Cells to Germline Cysts
Oocyte Polarity and the Embryonic Axes: The Balbiani Body, an Ancient Oocyte Asymmetry
Preparing Developmentally Competent Eggs
Cleavage/ Mitosis: Going Multicellular
About the Author(s)Florence Marlow
, Albert Einstein College of Medicine