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Today, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than 1 million visitors each month. The field of early embryology has grown to include the identification of the stem cell as not only critical to organogenesis in the embryo, but equally critical to organ function and repair in the adult human. The identification and understanding of genetic malfunction, inflammatory responses, and the progression in chronic disease, begins with a grounding in primary cellular and systemic functions manifested in the study of the early embryo.

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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFetal liver is producing blood cellsHead may position into pelvisBrain convolutions beginFull TermWhite fat begins to be madeWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningImmune system beginningPeriod of rapid brain growthBrain convolutions beginLungs begin to produce surfactantSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateInner Ear Bones HardenBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemFetal sexual organs visibleFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedBasic Brain Structure in PlaceThe Appearance of SomitesFirst Detectable Brain WavesA Four Chambered HeartBeginning Cerebral HemispheresFemale Reproductive SystemEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterSecond TrimesterFirst TrimesterFertilizationDevelopmental Timeline
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News Alerts  May 6, 2013--------News Archive


A protein structure (synaptonemal complex) forms between the homologous
chromosomes in the presence of the step-2 enzyme which is modified with SUMO.

If the step-2 enzyme cannot be modified with SUMO, the complex is completely absent.

© Martin Xaver, modified by Andrea Pichler.

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New mechanism discovered in meiosis

Inactivated, but still active – how modification of an enzyme governs critical processes in sexual reproduction.

'The Research Group' headed by molecular biologist Andrea Pichler from the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany, has made an important discovery in meiosis research. Pichler and her group have identified a new mechanism in meiosis.

Meiosis, also called reductional division, is a key process in sexual reproduction. It shuffles parental genetic material which guarantees genetic variety.

In order to control various processes, cells can selectively alter properties of their proteins, such as protein lifespan, activity level, binding partners, or localization of proteins. This occurs by attaching one or more Small Ubiquitin-like Modifier (SUMO) proteins.

Alterations take place in three sequential enzyme-dependent steps. Scientists had assumed that the enzyme for step 2 was solely an intermediate step. However, the scientists in Freiburg have now discovered that the step-2 enzyme is itself modified by the SUMO protein which thereby alters how it functions.

The surprising effect: the conventional activity of the enzyme is switched off by this change and instead—becomes a new function.

The new function works together with the activated, unaltered enzyme in the formation of SUMO chains. If this effect is blocked, there are serious consequences: the protein structure (synaptonemal complex) that forms between the homologous chromosomes (chromosome pairs of approximately the same length, centromere position, and staining pattern) can no longer be established. Only a tiny amount – less than one percent – of the SUMO-modified step-2 enzyme is needed to form a normal protein structure (see image).

Researcher Helene Klug : “The smallest amount of the altered enzyme together with the unmodified enzyme is sufficient to form an active complex, which then carries out the meiosis specific SUMO modifications.”

Pichler, study leader, adds:“In the beginning, the results of the biological and biochemical experiments were completely contradictory, although the data were absolutely sound. We were therefore convinced that both sets of observations were correct. Explaining this contradiction led us then to the new mechanism.”

After fifty years of research on the synaptonemal complex, these new insights are setting a new course: “This is the first time we can study the loss of the synaptonemal complex with practically no secondary effects and we hope to unveil its secret. That allows us to investigate the consequences for meiosis and thus for development of the gametes,” say Franz Klein and Martin Xaver, collaborators and meiosis researchers at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories in Vienna.

Pichler and her team had demonstrated in 2008 that the step-2 enzyme in mammalian cells had an influence on precisely which proteins are tagged with SUMO. But, in order to uncover the biological mechanism of this form of regulation, the team switched to a simpler organism: baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).

“Now that we know where to search, we want to switch back to the mammalian system and investigate the role of this enzyme regulation more closely,” says Pichler. “We want to better understand the function of the discovered baker’s yeast enzyme complex in the meiotic chromosomal structure.”

The work is published in Molecular Cell, 2 May 2013 Ubc9, "Sumoylation Controls SUMO Chain Formation and Meiotic Synapsis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae", by: Klug H, Xaver M, Chaugule V K, Koidl S, Mittler G, Klein F, and Pichler A

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics (MPI-IE) in Freiburg, founded in 1961, investigate how the immune system has developed over the course of evolution and how it changes during life. The focus on epigenetics was added in 2007. Researchers in this area investigate changes to inheritable characteristics that are not based upon changes to the DNA sequence.

Original article: http://www.mpg.de/7227575/meiosis