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Development. 1989 May;106(1):37-46.

An in situ transgenic enzyme marker for the midgestation mouse embryo and the visualization of inner cell mass clones during early organogenesis.

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  • 1ICRF Developmental Biology Unit, Department of Zoology, Oxford, UK.


In order to study the deployment of cells during gastrulation and early organogenesis, it is necessary to have an in situ cell marker which can be used to follow cell fate. To create such a marker a transgenic mouse strain, designated Tg(Act-lac Z)-1, which carries 6 copies of the Escherichia coli lac Z gene under the control of the rat beta-actin promoter, was made by pronuclear injection of DNA. Staining early postimplantation hemizygous mouse conceptuses, during gastrulation and early organogenesis, for beta-galactosidase activity shows that lac Z expression is ubiquitous and constitutive in all epiblast derivatives of the 10th day conceptus. No activity is seen in trophectoderm and primitive endoderm derivatives. Postimplantation grafts of [3H]thymidine-labelled transgenic cells establish the cell autonomy of this transgenic marker. Preliminary observations on the distribution of inner cell mass (ICM) descendant clones, identified in situ in midgestation conceptuses, confirm the pluripotency of individual ICM cells. The implications regarding patterns of cell growth in nascent fetal primordia are discussed.

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