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Development. 1991 Sep;113(1):295-304.

Tissue-specific control of expression of the tight junction polypeptide ZO-1 in the mouse early embryo.

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Department of Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, UK.


The processes governing differential protein expression in preimplantation lineages were investigated using a monoclonal antibody recognising the tight junction polypeptide, ZO-1. ZO-1 localises to the maturing tight junction membrane domain in the polarised trophectoderm lineage from compaction (8-cell stage) onwards, ultimately forming a zonular belt around each trophectoderm cell of the blastocyst (32- to 64-cell stage). The protein is usually undetectable within the inner cell mass (ICM) although, in a minority of embryos, punctate ZO-1 sites are present on the surface of one or more ICM cells. Since ICM cells derive from the differentiative division of polarised 8- and 16-cell blastomeres, the distribution of ZO-1 following differentiative division in isolated, synchronised cell clusters of varying size, was examined. In contrast to the apical cytocortical pole, ZO-1 was found to be inherited by nonpolar (prospective ICM) as well as polar (prospective trophectoderm) daughter cells. Following division, polar cells adhere to and gradually envelop nonpolar cells. Prior to envelopment, ZO-1 localises to the boundary between the contact area and free membrane of daughter cells, irrespective of their phenotype. After envelopment, polar cells retain these ZO-1 contact sites whilst nonpolar cells lose them, in which case ZO-1 transiently appears as randomly-distributed punctate sites on the membrane before disappearing. Thus, symmetrical cell contact appears to initiate ZO-1 down-regulation in the ICM lineage. The biosynthetic level at which ZO-1 down-regulation occurs was investigated in immunosurgically isolated ICMs undergoing trophectoderm regeneration. By 6 h in culture, isolated ICMs generated a zonular network of ZO-1 at the contact area between outer cells, thereby demonstrating the reversibility of down-regulation. This assembly process was unaffected by alpha-amanitin treatment but was inhibited by cycloheximide. These results indicate that the ICM inherits and stabilises ZO-1 transcripts which can be utilised for rapid synthesis and assembly of the protein, a capacity that may have significance both in maintaining lineage integrity within the blastocyst and in the subsequent development of the ICM.

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