Loss of maternal CTCF is associated with peri-implantation lethality of Ctcf null embryos.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


PloS one, Volume 7, Issue 4, p.e34915 (2012)


2012, Center-Authored Paper, Comparative Medicine Core Facility, Consortium Authored Paper, Human Biology Division, May 2012, Shared Resources, Specialized Pathology Core Facility, Specimen Processing Core Facility


CTCF is a highly conserved, multifunctional zinc finger protein involved in critical aspects of gene regulation including transcription regulation, chromatin insulation, genomic imprinting, X-chromosome inactivation, and higher order chromatin organization. Such multifunctional properties of CTCF suggest an essential role in development. Indeed, a previous report on maternal depletion of CTCF suggested that CTCF is essential for pre-implantation development. To distinguish between the effects of maternal and zygotic expression of CTCF, we studied pre-implantation development in mice harboring a complete loss of function Ctcf knockout allele. Although we demonstrated that homozygous deletion of Ctcf is early embryonically lethal, in contrast to previous observations, we showed that the Ctcf nullizygous embryos developed up to the blastocyst stage (E3.5) followed by peri-implantation lethality (E4.5-E5.5). Moreover, one-cell stage Ctcf nullizygous embryos cultured ex vivo developed to the 16-32 cell stage with no obvious abnormalities. Using a single embryo assay that allowed both genotype and mRNA expression analyses of the same embryo, we demonstrated that pre-implantation development of the Ctcf nullizygous embryos was associated with the retention of the maternal wild type Ctcf mRNA. Loss of this stable maternal transcript was temporally associated with loss of CTCF protein expression, apoptosis of the developing embryo, and failure to further develop an inner cell mass and trophoectoderm ex vivo. This indicates that CTCF expression is critical to early embryogenesis and loss of its expression rapidly leads to apoptosis at a very early developmental stage. This is the first study documenting the presence of the stable maternal Ctcf transcript in the blastocyst stage embryos. Furthermore, in the presence of maternal CTCF, zygotic CTCF expression does not seem to be required for pre-implantation development.