The effects of aphidicolin, a reversible inhibitor of DNA polymerase alpha, both on replication and on development of the mouse embryo from the 2- and 4-cell stages to the compacted late 8-cell stage have been assessed. The continuous presence of aphidicolin from G1 of the 4-cell stage resulted in inhibition of DNA replication and prevention of division from 4 to 8 cells, but was without effect on the timing or incidence of cell flattening, surface polarization and cytoplasmic polarization. The continuous presence of aphidicolin from G1 of the 2-cell stage resulted in inhibition of DNA replication, division, and polarization. Some slight intercellular flattening in a few embryos did occur. If addition of aphidicolin was delayed by 10 h to early in G2 of the 2-cell stage, further rounds of replication were blocked and some embryos failed to cleave to 4-cells. Nevertheless, almost all embryos showed evidence of flattening and polarization regardless of cell number. In contrast, if aphidicolin was added in G1 of the 2-cell stage and removed after 10 h, the cells showed delayed DNA replication, little evidence of division, and no cell flattening or polarization. We conclude that DNA replication at the 2-cell stage may be essential for the components of compaction studied, but that DNA replication at the 4- and 8-cell stages is not.

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