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Reprod Fertil Dev. 1996;8(4):725-42.

Cleavage in vivo and in vitro in the Marsupial Macropus eugenii.

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Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic, Australia.


In the tammar wallaby, transport down the oviduct takes less than 24 h after fertilization and a mucoid coat is deposited within a few hours of fertilization, with excess spermatozoa trapped in the mucoid layer. The mucin coat thickens as the zygote passes down the oviduct. A proteinaceous shell is laid down outside the mucin coat in the utero-tubal region of the tract. The fertilized zygote enters the uterus in the pronuclear stage with cleavage proceeding in the uterus. In vivo, the first cleavage takes place two days post coitum (p.c.) (approximately 24 h after ovulation) but the next three cleavage stages may be completed within 24 h (between 48 h and 72 h p.c.). Thus, cell-doubling time appears to be around 8 h for 2-8-cell stages. Cleavage in vitro can occur with, or without, the shell membrane. Cleavage in early embryos of the tammar in vitro is slower than that occurring in vivo, and in vitro there may be a '4-cell block' in early development, as in dasyurids. The pattern of cleavage differs markedly from that of dasyurid marsupials in that there is no extrusion of yolk material from the cells and no separation of the blastomeres during the first cleavage stages to the 8-cell stage. The blastomeres are characterized by numerous vesicular structures and lipid droplets, but no yolk bodies. Polarity is not marked in early cleavage, but by the 8-cell stage polarity has developed with surface microvilli and numerous granular vesicles and mitochondria in the cortical regions at one pole of the cells, but sparse microvilli on the inner surfaces and at the other pole. There are complex intervillous interdigitations of microvilli between cells. However, clear identification of cells as pluriblast or trophoblast cells is not possible up to the 8-cell stage examined. These results demonstrate that this macropodid marsupial has a distinctive pattern of early development which differs from that of Didelphis and of the dasyurid marsupials so far described.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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