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Cell Death Differ. 1999 Jun;6(6):533-45.

Apoptosis at the time of embryo implantation in mouse and rat.

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  • 1OBST 5330 Research Unit, Universit√© Catholique de Louvain Medical School, Brussels, Belgium.


The aim of this review is to summarize the information currently available regarding the occurrence of apoptosis in the developing embryo and in the receptive uterus during the peri-implantation period of gestation. Cell death is detected in the inner cell mass of late pre-implantation embryos as the result of an eliminative process that helps trim the embryonic cell lineages of surplus or dysfunctional stem cells. Cell death is also detected in the epiblastic core of early post-implantation embryos, where the process is implicated in the formation of the pro-amniotic cavity. On the maternal side, uterine epithelial cells situated around the attachment site undergo cell death during the initial phase of implantation in order to facilitate embryo anchorage and access to maternal blood supply. Uterine stromal cells closest to the implantation chamber first transform into decidual cells and then commit suicide to make room for the rapidly growing embryo. Although apoptosis is well recognized as a crucial determinant of successful peri-implantation development, our understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating this process clearly lags behind the comprehension of cell death control in other systems.

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