• DEAD-box protein;
  • rck/p54 RNA helicase;
  • oocyte maturation;
  • spermatogenesis;
  • embryogenesis


rck/p54 is a DEAD-box RNA helicase protein with ATP-dependent RNA-unwinding activity. Its ortholog is required for sexual reproduction in yeast and for oocyte survival and sperm fertility in Caenorhabditis elegans. In the current study, we investigated the expression of rck/p54 in mouse gametogenesis and early embryogenesis. Western blot analysis revealed that rck/p54 was highly expressed in both the ovary and testis. In the ovary, maturing oocytes strongly expressed rck/p54 in their cytoplasm. In contrast, in the testis, spermatogonia and primary spermatocytes highly expressed rck/p54 in their cytoplasm, but its expression decreased in the spermatids. Interestingly, rck/p54 was concentrated in the heads of spermatozoa; and then its expression gradually decreased as these cells matured along the epididymal duct. After fertilization, rck/p54 protein and its mRNA remained present in the pronucleus phase; and then their expression levels slightly but definitely decreased in morulae and blastocytes. The injection of a CMV-based rck/p54 expression vector into the pronuclei of fertilized eggs caused a delay in early embryogenesis. In generating RCK transgenic mice, the birth rate of the mice was significantly lower than those of other gene transgenic mice. These findings indicate that rck/p54 may play an important role in gametogenesis and early embryogenesis in mammals. Developmental Dynamics 233:1149–1156, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.