Cortical softening elicits zygotic contractility during mouse preimplantation development

Nom de la revue
PLOS Biology
Özge Özgüç, Ludmilla de Plater, Varun Kapoor, Anna Francesca Tortorelli, Andrew G. Clark, Jean-Léon Maître

Actomyosin contractility is a major engine of preimplantation morphogenesis, which starts at the 8-cell stage during mouse embryonic development. Contractility becomes first visible with the appearance of periodic cortical waves of contraction (PeCoWaCo), which travel around blastomeres in an oscillatory fashion. How contractility of the mouse embryo becomes active remains unknown. We have taken advantage of PeCoWaCo to study the awakening of contractility during preimplantation development. We find that PeCoWaCo become detectable in most embryos only after the second cleavage and gradually increase their oscillation frequency with each successive cleavage. To test the influence of cell size reduction during cleavage divisions, we use cell fusion and fragmentation to manipulate cell size across a 20- to 60-μm range. We find that the stepwise reduction in cell size caused by cleavage divisions does not explain the presence of PeCoWaCo or their accelerating rhythm. Instead, we discover that blastomeres gradually decrease their surface tensions until the 8-cell stage and that artificially softening cells enhances PeCoWaCo prematurely. We further identify the programmed down-regulation of the formin Fmnl3 as a required event to soften the cortex and expose PeCoWaCo. Therefore, during cleavage stages, cortical softening, mediated by Fmnl3 down-regulation, awakens zygotic contractility before preimplantation morphogenesis.