, Volume 188, Issue 1-2, pp 41-48

The molecular basis for the role of zinc in developmental biology

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Abstract

Zinc regulates the gene expression machinery. It affects the structure of chromatin, the template function of its DNA, the activity of numerous transcription factors and of RNA polymerases. Hence, it determines both the types of mRNA transcripts synthesized and the rate of transcription itself. Alterations in one or more of these zinc dependent processes have been proposed to account for the proliferative arrest and teratology induced by zinc deficiency. To examine this proposal, studies of zinc during X. laevis development have been initiated. The kinetics of X. laevis oocyte zinc uptake and storage and of zinc utilization during embryogenesis have been examined first. Vitellogenin carries zinc into the oocyte. Ten % of the total zinc (10 ng/egg) remains within the cytosol while 90% (90 ng/egg) is stored in the yolk platelets associated with lipovitellin. The cytosolic pool is the source of the zinc for all newly formed metalloproteins involved in embryo development. The yolk platelet zinc pool is stored for later use during early metamorphosis. It is now possible to examine zinc transfer to molecules, such as e.g. transcription factors, and the role of the metal in their function in development and organogenesis.