The effects of depleting a maternal cytokeratin mRNA on the developing embryo are described. Cytokeratins are members of the intermediate filament family of cytoskeletal proteins, and are expressed in a cortical network of the superficial cytoplasm of the oocyte. After fertilisation, a new cortical network is built up, which comes to occupy only the most superficial cells of the blastula. The maternal cytokeratin mRNA is abundantly translated, both during oogenesis, and during oocyte maturation and after fertilisation. Depletion of the mRNA results in depletion of the cortical filaments at the blastula stage and leads to gastrulation abnormalities. We discuss the various possible control experiments required for antisense oligo depletion studies and the implications of these results for cytokeratin function.

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