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Nuclear composition determines nuclear function. The early embryos of many species begin life with large pools of maternally provided components that become rapidly imported into an increasing number of nuclei as the cells undergo repeated cleavage divisions. Because early cell cycles are too fast for nuclei to achieve steady-state nucleocytoplasmic partitioning, the composition of cleavage stage nuclei is likely dominated by nuclear import. The end of the rapid cleavage stage and onset of major zygotic transcription, known as the mid-blastula transition (MBT), is controlled by the ratio of nuclei/cytoplasm, indicating that changes in nuclear composition likely mediate MBT timing. Here, we explore how different nuclear import regimes can affect protein accumulation in the nucleus in the early Drosophila embryo. We find that nuclear import differs dramatically for a general nuclear cargo (NLS (nuclear localization signal)-mRFP) and a proposed MBT regulator (histone H3). We show that nuclear import rates of NLS-mRFP in a given nucleus remain relatively unchanged throughout the cleavage cycles, whereas those of H3 halve with each cycle. We model these two distinct modes of nuclear import as "nucleus-limited" and "import-limited" and examine how the two different modes can contribute to different protein accumulation dynamics. Finally, we incorporate these distinct modes of nuclear import into a model for cell-cycle regulation at the MBT and find that the import-limited H3 dynamics contribute to increased robustness and allow for stepwise cell-cycle slowing at the MBT. Copyright © 2021 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Yuki Shindo, Amanda A Amodeo. Modeling the role for nuclear import dynamics in the early embryonic cell cycle. Biophysical journal. 2021 Oct 05;120(19):4277-4286

PMID: 34022240

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