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Differentiation. 1993 Aug;54(1):35-45.

The cytoskeleton and associated proteins during cleavage, compaction and blastocyst differentiation in the pig.

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Department of Pathology, University of Helsinki, Finland.


The organization of the cytoskeleton during early pig embryogenesis was investigated by using fluorescence and electron microscopy. The early morphogenesis of the pig embryo differed from that of the mouse, the standard model of the early mammalian development. In the pig, both compaction and polarization were gradual, and definitive polarization of cell surface microville occurred first shortly before blastocyst formation; the compaction and polarization of the mouse embryo are completed as early as at the 8 cell stage. Furthermore, the pig morula undergoes cycles of compaction and decompaction throughout its development. Distinct changes in the distribution of actin and the actin-associated proteins alpha-fodrin, vinculin and E-cadherin coincided with these events. In the pig, all these molecules were evenly distributed at all aspects of the blastomeres during early cleavage and then gradually accumulated in regions of intercellular contacts toward the blastocyst stage; microfilaments in trophectoderm cells formed a cortical meshwork associated with apical microvilli and adherent junctions (zonula adherens). In the mouse, the corresponding changes occur earlier, at the 8 cell stage. Microtubules formed a network-like cortical layer beneath the microvilli at the free outer surfaces of pig blastomeres. Cytokeratin bundles were not observed until the early blastocyst, where they characteristically associated with newly formed desmosomes. In both species a close correlation between morphologically defined developmental stages and the organization of the cytoskeleton: actin and actin-associated proteins are involved in polarization and compaction, whereas the appearance of intermediate filament bundles coincides with the building of the first epithelium, the trophectoderm; it is in the timing of events that a contrast between species is observed.

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