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Growing an Embryo from a Single Cell: A Hurdle in Animal Life.

  • Author(s): O'Farrell, Patrick H
  • et al.

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A requirement that an animal be able to feed to grow constrains how a cell can grow into an animal, and it forces an alternation between growth (increase in mass) and proliferation (increase in cell number). A growth-only phase that transforms a stem cell of ordinary proportions into a huge cell, the oocyte, requires dramatic adaptations to help a nucleus direct a 10(5)-fold expansion of cytoplasmic volume. Proliferation without growth transforms the huge egg into an embryo while still accommodating an impotent nucleus overwhelmed by the voluminous cytoplasm. This growth program characterizes animals that deposit their eggs externally, but it is changed in mammals and in endoparasites. In these organisms, development in a nutritive environment releases the growth constraint, but growth of cells before gastrulation requires a new program to sustain pluripotency during this growth.

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