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Dev Biol. 2007 Dec 15;312(2):509-22. Epub 2007 Oct 4.

Tight junctions containing claudin 4 and 6 are essential for blastocyst formation in preimplantation mouse embryos.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Yoshida-Konoe, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


The trophectoderm (TE) is the first epithelium to be generated during mammalian early development. The TE works as a barrier that isolates the inner cell mass from the uterine environment and provides the turgidity of the blastocyst through elevated hydrostatic pressure. In this study, we investigated the role of tight junctions (TJs) in the barrier function of the TE during mouse blastocyst formation. RT-PCR and immunostaining revealed that the mouse TE expressed at least claudin 4, 6, and 7 among the 24 members of the claudin gene family, which encode structural and functional constituents of TJs. When embryos were cultured in the presence of a GST-fused C-terminal half of Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (GST-C-CPE), a polypeptide with inhibitory activity to claudin 4 and 6, normal blastocyst formation was remarkably inhibited; the embryos had no or an immature blastocoel cavity without expansion, and blastomeres showed a rounded shape. In these embryos, claudin 4 and 6 proteins were absent from TJs and the barrier function of the TE was disrupted; however the basolateral localization of the Na+/K+-ATPase alpha1 subunit and aquaporin 3, which are thought to be involved in blastocyst formation, appeared normal. These results clearly demonstrate that the barrier function of TJs in the TE is required for normal blastocyst formation.

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