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Phys Biol. 2012 Aug;9(4):045002. doi: 10.1088/1478-3975/9/4/045002. Epub 2012 Aug 7.

Cell fate regulation in early mammalian development.

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Yale Stem Cell Center, Department of Genetics, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.


Preimplantation development in mammals encompasses a period from fertilization to implantation and results in formation of a blastocyst composed of three distinct cell lineages: epiblast, trophectoderm and primitive endoderm. The epiblast gives rise to the organism, while the trophectoderm and the primitive endoderm contribute to extraembryonic tissues that support embryo development after implantation. In many vertebrates, such as frog or fish, maternally supplied lineage determinants are partitioned within the egg. Cell cleavage that follows fertilization results in polarization of these factors between the individual blastomeres, which become restricted in their developmental fate. In contrast, the mouse oocyte and zygote lack clear polarity and, until the eight-cell stage, individual blastomeres retain the potential to form all lineages. How are cell lineages specified in the absence of a maternally supplied blueprint? This is a fundamental question in the field of developmental biology. The answer to this question lies in understanding the cell-cell interactions and gene networks involved in embryonic development prior to implantation and using this knowledge to create testable models of the developmental processes that govern cell fates. We provide an overview of classic and contemporary models of early lineage development in the mouse and discuss the emerging body of work that highlights similarities and differences between blastocyst development in the mouse and other mammalian species.

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