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Development. 2001 Jun;128(12):2333-9.

Physiological rationale for responsiveness of mouse embryonic stem cells to gp130 cytokines.

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  • 1Centre for Genome Research, University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JQ, UK. jenny.nichols@ed.ac.uk


Embryonic stem cells are established directly from the pluripotent epiblast of the preimplantation mouse embryo. Their derivation and propagation are dependent upon cytokine-stimulated activation of gp130 signal transduction. Embryonic stem cells maintain a close resemblance to epiblast in developmental potency and gene expression profile. The presumption of equivalence between embryonic stem cells and epiblast is challenged, however, by the finding that early embryogenesis can proceed in the absence of gp130. To explore this issue further, we have examined the capacity of gp130 mutant embryos to accommodate perturbation of normal developmental progression. Mouse embryos arrest at the late blastocyst stage when implantation is prevented. This process of diapause occurs naturally in lactating females or can be induced experimentally by removal of the ovaries. We report that gp130(-/-) embryos survive unimplanted in the uterus after ovariectomy but, in contrast to wild-type or heterozygous embryos, are subsequently unable to resume development. Inner cell masses explanted from gp130(-/-) delayed blastocysts produce only parietal endoderm, a derivative of the hypoblast. Intact mutant embryos show an absence of epiblast cells, and Hoechst staining and TUNEL analysis reveal a preceding increased incidence of cell death. These findings establish that gp130 signalling is essential for the prolonged maintenance of epiblast in vivo, which is commonly required of mouse embryos in the wild. We propose that the responsiveness of embryonic stem cells to gp130 signalling has its origin in this adaptive physiological function.

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