Down-regulation of tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle genes blocks progression through the first mitotic division in Caenorhabditis elegans embryos

Mohammad M. Rahman, Simona Rosu, Daphna Joseph-Strauss, Orna Cohen-Fix*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The cell cycle is a highly regulated process that enables the accurate transmission of chromosomes to daughter cells. Here we uncover a previously unknown link between the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and cell cycle progression in the Caenorhabditis elegans early embryo. We found that down-regulation of TCA cycle components, including citrate synthase, malate dehydrogenase, and aconitase, resulted in a one-cell stage arrest before entry into mitosis: pronuclear meeting occurred normally, but nuclear envelope breakdown, centrosome separation, and chromosome condensation did not take place. Mitotic entry is controlled by the cyclin B-cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (Cdk1) complex, and the inhibitory phosphorylation of Cdk1 must be removed in order for the complex to be active. We found that following down-regulation of the TCA cycle, cyclin B levels were normal but CDK-1 remained inhibitory-phosphorylated in one-cell stage-arrested embryos, indicative of a G2-like arrest. Moreover, this was not due to an indirect effect caused by checkpoint activation by DNA damage or replication defects. These observations suggest that CDK-1 activation in the C. elegans one-cell embryo is sensitive to the metabolic state of the cell, and that down-regulation of the TCA cycle prevents the removal of CDK-1 inhibitory phosphorylation. The TCA cycle was previously shown to be necessary for the development of the early embryo in mammals, but the molecular processes affected were not known. Our study demonstrates a link between the TCA cycle and a specific cell cycle transition in the one-cell stage embryo.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2602-2607
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - 18 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


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