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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2010 Oct;20(5):485-91. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2010.05.006. Epub 2010 Jun 14.

Developmental control of the early mammalian embryo: competition among heterogeneous cells that biases cell fate.

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The Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1QN, United Kingdom.


The temporal and spatial segregation of the two extra-embryonic cell lineages, trophectoderm and primitive endoderm (TE and PE respectively), from the pluripotent epiblast (EPI) during mammalian pre-implantation development are prerequisites for the successful implantation of the blastocyst. The mechanisms underlying these earliest stages of development remain a fertile topic for research and informed debate. In recent years novel roles for various transcription factors, polarity factors and signalling cascades have been uncovered. This mini-review seeks to summarise some of this work and to put it into the context of the regulative nature of early mammalian development and to highlight how the increasing evidence of naturally occurring asymmetries and heterogeneity in the embryo can bias specification of the distinct cell types of the blastocyst.

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