Embryonic development and a quantitative model of programmed DNA elimination in Mesocyclops edax (S. A. Forbes, 1891) (Copepoda: Cyclopoida)


Michelle K. Clower, Ashton S. Holub, Rebecca T. Smith and Grace A. Wyngaard


The highly programmed fragmentation of chromosomes and elimination of large amounts of nuclear DNA from the presomatic cell lineages (i.e., chromatin diminution), occurs in the embryos of the freshwater zooplankton Mesocyclops edax (S. A. Forbes, 1891) (Crustacea: Copepoda). The somatic genome is reorganized and reduced to a size five times smaller even though the germline genome remains intact. We present the first comprehensive, quantitative model of DNA content throughout embryogenesis in a copepod that possesses embryonic DNA elimination. We used densitometric image analysis to measure the DNA content of polar bodies, germline and somatic nuclei, and excised DNA “droplets.” We report: 1) variable DNA contents of polar bodies, some of which do not contain the amount corresponding to the haploid germline genome size; 2) presence of pronuclei in newly laid embryo sacs; 3) gonomeric chromosomes in the second to fourth cleavage divisions and in the primordial germ cell and primordial endoderm cell during the fifth cleavage division; 4) timing of early embryonic cell stages, elimination of DNA, and divisions of the primordial germ cell and primordial endoderm cell at 22°C; and 5) persistence of a portion of the excised DNA “droplets” throughout embryogenesis. DNA elimination is a trait that spans multiple embryonic stages and a knowledge of the timing and variability of the associated cytological events with DNA elimination will promote the study of the molecular mechanisms involved in this trait. We propose the “genome yolk hypothesis” as a functional explanation for the persistence of the eliminated DNA that might serve as a resource during postdiminution cleavage divisions.