A lack of a protein called heat-shock factor 1 (HSF1) may be linked with a type of infertility in mammals, including humans, researchers suggest in a Brief Communication this week (Nature, Vol. 407, No. 6805, 12 Oct 2000). Its absence, in mice at least, seems to give rise to post-fertilization abnormalities, say I. J. Benjamin of the University of Texas, Dallas, Texas, and colleagues.
Female mice lacking the gene for this protein (Hsf1) have normal ovaries and reproductive tracts and their eggs can be fertilized normally. But the resultant embryos are unable to develop beyond zygotes (one or two cells), even if they are transplanted into wild-type mice. This indicates that the causes of infertility in these 'Hsf1-knockout' mice are "intrinsic rather than extrinsic," Benjamin's group suggests, and that successful early development of the embryo is down to the mother.
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