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Reprod Fertil Dev. 1998;10(7-8):535-49.

Developmental complexity of early mammalian pluripotent cell populations in vivo and in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Adelaide, South Australia.


Early mammalian embryogenesis is characterised by the coordinated proliferation, differentiation, migration and apoptosis of a pluripotent cell pool that is able to give rise to extraembryonic lineages and all the cell types of the embryo proper. These cells retain pluripotent differentiation capability, defined in this paper as the ability to form all cell types of the embryo and adult, until differentiation into the three embryonic germ layers at gastrulation. Our understanding of pluripotent cell biology and molecular regulation has been hampered by the difficulties associated with experimental manipulation of these cells in vivo. However, a more detailed understanding of pluripotent cell behaviour is emerging from the application of molecular technologies to early mouse embryogenesis. The construction of mouse mutants by gene targeting, mapping of gene expression in vivo, and modelling of cell decisions in vitro are providing insight into the cellular origin, identity and action of key developmental regulators, and the nature of pluripotent cells themselves. In this review we discuss the properties of early embryonic pluripotent cells in vitro and in vivo, focusing on progression from inner cell mass (ICM) cells in the blastocyst to the onset of gastrulation.

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