After a gestation period of about ten months, fawns are born in early summer - when the weather is warm and food is plentiful for the mother. Six months would actually be enough for the embryo's development, but then offspring from mating in the later portion of summer would be born in winter. Therefore, nature prolongs the gestation period by a hormone-regulated pause in the development of the early embryos. Many animal species use this process, called diapause, to adjust their reproduction to environmental conditions. In their research on embryonic stem cells, Andreas Trumpp, Ph.D., and colleagues have now discovered the factor that controls this developmental pause. The open-access article, which is titled “Myc Depletion Induces a Pluripotent Dormant State Mimicking Diapause,” was published in the February 11, 2016 issue of Cell. Dr. Trumpp is head of a research department at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and of the Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine (HI-STEM), which is based at the DKFZ and supported by the Dietmar Hopp Foundation. It is known that, in many types of cancer, the more MYC protein the cancer cells produce, the more aggressively the tumors grow. The scientists had noticed that the MYC protein is also active in embryonic stem cells. In order to explore the role that the MYC gene plays in these cells, the investigators obtained embryonic stem cells from mice whose MYC genes (c-MYC and N-MYC) could be selectively deactivated. The resulting embryonic MYC-depleted stem cells strongly reduced the activity of genes that play a role in cell division, cellular growth, and metabolism.
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