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Reproduction. 2003 Apr;125(4):607-23.

Immunohistochemical and ultrastructural characterization of the initial post-hatching development of bovine embryos.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Physiology, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Groennegaardsvej 7, DK-1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark. poh@kvl.dk


The problems of sustaining placenta formation in embryos produced by nuclear transfer have emphasized the need for basic knowledge about epiblast formation and gastrulation in bovine embryos. The aims of this study were to define stages of bovine post-hatching embryonic development and to analyse functional mechanisms of germ-layer formation. Embryos developed in vivo were collected after slaughter from superovulated cows on days 9, 11, 14 and 21 after insemination and processed for transmission electron microscopy (n = 26) or immunohistochemistry (n = 27) for potential germ-layer characterization (cytokeratin 8 for potential ectoderm; alpha-1-fetoprotein for potential endoderm; and vimentin for potential mesoderm). On day 9, the embryos were devoid of zona pellucida and presented a well-defined inner cell mass (ICM), which was covered by a thin layer of trophoblast cells (the Rauber's layer). Formation of the hypoblast from the inside of the ICM was ongoing. On day 11, the Rauber's layer was focally interrupted and adjacent underlying ICM cells formed tight junctions. The hypoblast, which formed a thin confluent cell layer, was separated from the ICM and the tropho-blast by intercellular matrix. The embryos were ovoid to tubular and displayed a confluent hypoblast on day 14. The epiblast was inserted into the trophoblast epithelium and tight junctions and desmosomes were present between adjacent epiblast cells as well as between peripheral epiblast and trophoblast cells. In some embryos, the epiblast was more or less covered by foldings of trophoblast in the process of forming the amniotic cavity. Cytokeratin 8 was localized to the trophoblast and the hypoblast underlying the epiblast; alpha-1-fetoprotein was localized to most hypoblast cells underlying the trophoblast; and vimentin was localized to most epiblast cells. On day 21, the smallest embryos displayed a primitive streak and formation of the neural groove, whereas the largest embryos presented a neural tube, up to 14 somites and allantois development. These embryos depicted the gradual formation of the endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm as well as differentiation of paraxial, intermediate and lateral plate mesoderm. Cytokeratin 8 was localized to the trophoblast, the hypoblast and the surface and neural ectoderm; and alpha-1-fetoprotein was localized to the hypoblast, but not the definitive endoderm, the intensity increasing with development. Vimentin was initially localized to some, but not all, cells positioned particularly in the ventral region of the primitive streak, to presumptive definitive endoderm cells inserted into the hypoblast, and to mesoderm. In conclusion, within 2 weeks of hatching, bovine embryos complete formation of the hypoblast and the epiblast, establishment of the amniotic cavity, ingression of epiblast cells for primitive streak formation, involution of cells through the node and the streak for endoderm and mesoderm fomation, neurulation and differentiation of the mesoderm. The recruitment of cells from the epiblast to form the primitive streak as well as the endoderm and mesoderm is associated with expression of the intermediate filament vimentin.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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