Apoptosis plays an important regulatory role in mammalian embryogenesis and development. EAT/mcl-1 (EAT), an anti-apoptotic bcl-2-related gene, was isolated during the early differentiation of a human embryonal carcinoma cell line, an event which serves as a model of early embryogenesis. EAT is involved in apoptotic regulation and is believed to also function as an immediate-early gene. Thus it was hypothesized that EAT would be expressed during early embryogenesis and would be involved in the regulation of apoptosis during this critical period. To clarify this early expression, two antibodies to EAT were generated by use of immunizing oligopeptide (aa 37-55) and recombinant protein (aa 31-229) for use in immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting, respectively. With these antibodies, we then determined EAT expression during murine embryogenesis and in human development, using human fetal tissue of 6 to 23 gestational weeks. During murine embryogenesis, the EAT protein was found to be rapidly induced after fertilization, to peak at the 2-cell stage, to remain constant until the 8-cell stage, and then to decrease to below unfertilized egg levels in blastocysts. EAT expression patterns in early human development were found to essentially overlap those observed in adult tissues which suggest that EAT expression continues until adulthood in terminally differentiated tissues. Among tissues distinct to fetal development, EAT was detected in the mesonephric (Wolffian) duct and paramesonephric (Mullerian) duct. It is also noteworthy that prominent EAT immunoreactivity was also observed in large primary oocytes in 21-week fetal ovary, but was not detected in primordial germ cells in 23-week fetal testis. In summary, EAT expression was detected in hematopoietic, epithelial, neural, endocrine, and urogenital cells; this provides evidence that EAT, as an anti-apoptotic molecule, possibly functions to regulate apoptosis during development in these systems. (C) 2000 Academic Press.
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