l(2)dtl (lethal (2) denticleless), is an embryonic lethal homozygous mutation initially identified in Drosophila melanogaster that produces embryos that lack ventral denticle belts. In addition to nucleotide sequence, bioinformatic analysis has revealed a conservation of critical functional motifs among the human L2DTL, mouse L2dtl, and Drosophila l(2)dtl proteins. The function of the L2DTL protein in the development of mammalian embryos was studied using targeted disruption of the L2dtl gene in mice. The knock-out resulted in early embryonic lethality. L2dtl-/- embryos were deformed and terminated development at the 4-8-cell stage. Microinjection of a small interfering RNA (siRNA) vector (siRNA-L2dtl) into the two-cell stage nuclei of wild-type mouse embryos led to cell cycle progression failure, termination of cell division, and, eventually, embryonic death during the preimplantation stage. Morphological studies of the embryos 54 h after injection showed fragmentation of mitotic chromosomes and chromosomal lagging, hallmarks of mitotic catastrophe. The siRNA-L2dtl-treated embryos eventually lysed and failed to develop into blastocysts after 72 h of in vitro culturing. However, the embryos developed normally after they were microinjected into one nucleus of the two-celled embryos. The siRNA studies in HeLa cells showed that L2dtl protein depletion results in multinucleation and down-regulation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, proliferating cell nuclear antigen, and PTTG1/securin, which might partially explain the mitotic catastrophe observed in L2dtl-depleted mouse embryos. Based on these findings, we conclude that L2dtl gene expression is essential for very early mouse embryonic development.
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