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Microsc Res Tech. 2013 Jul;76(7):756-66. doi: 10.1002/jemt.22227. Epub 2013 May 7.

A morphological analysis of the transition between the embryonic primitive intestine and yolk sac in bovine embryos and fetuses.

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Department of Veterinary Medicine, FZEA, University of Sao Paulo, Pirassununga, São Paulo, Brazil.


The yolk sac (YS) is the main source of embryonic nutrition during the period when the placenta has not yet formed. It is also responsible for hematopoiesis because the blood cells develop from it as part of the primitive embryonic circulation. The objective of this study was to characterize the transitional area between the YS and primitive gut using the techniques of light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and immunohistochemistry to detect populations of pluripotent cells by labeling with Oct4 antibody. In all investigated embryos, serial sections were made to permit the identification of this small, restricted area. We identified the YS connection with the primitive intestine and found that it is composed of many blood islands, which correspond to the vessels covered by vitelline and mesenchymal cells. We identified large numbers of hemangioblasts inside the vessels. The mesenchymal layer was thin and composed of elongated cells, and the vitelline endodermal membrane was composed of large, mono- or binucleated cells. The epithelium of the primitive intestine comprised stratified columnar cells and undifferentiated mesenchymal cells. The transitional area between the YS and the primitive intestine was very thin and composed of cells with irregular shapes, which formed a delicate lumen containing hemangioblasts. In the mesenchyme of the transitional area, there were a considerable number of small vessels containing hemangioblasts. Using Oct4 as a primary antibody, we identified positive cells in the metanephros, primordial gonad, and hepatic parenchyma as well as in YS cells, suggesting that these regions contain populations of pluripotent cells.

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