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Anat Embryol (Berl). 1993 May;187(5):493-504.

Onset of gastrulation, morphogenesis and somitogenesis in mouse embryos displaying compensatory growth.

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Embryology Unit, Children's Medical Research Institute, Wentworthville, NSW, Australia.


This is a study on the ability of mouse embryos to compensate for a loss of cells and to develop with body parts of normal size and normal proportions during post-implantation development. Micro-manipulations were performed on 4-cell pre-implantation mouse embryos to reduce the number of cells by 25% (3/4 embryos) or 50% (2/4 embryos). Blastocysts developed from these embryos showed a preferential loss of inner cell mass population, and fewer of them formed viable embryos after implantation. The size of post-implantation 3/4 embryos was initially smaller than controls of the same gestational age, but compensatory growth, achieved by increasing cell numbers at above the normal rate and beyond the normal duration, took place between 6.5 and 11.5 days, resulting in a complete restoration of body size. During compensatory growth the 3/4 embryos rescheduled events of gastrulation and morphogenesis in keeping with cell number or body size appropriate for each developmental stage. The formation of the correct number of somites was accomplished by changing the rate of somite segmentation and by an adjustment of the size of individual somites and somitomeres proportional to the available amount of precursor tissues. Morphogenesis and pattern formation in embryos recovering from earlier cell losses are therefore regulated in accordance to tissue volume (or cell number) instead of chronological age or some intrinsic cellular clock.

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