Talk:Blastocyst Development

From Embryology
About Discussion Pages  
Mark Hill.jpg
On this website the Discussion Tab or "talk pages" for a topic has been used for several purposes:
  1. References - recent and historic that relates to the topic
  2. Additional topic information - currently prepared in draft format
  3. Links - to related webpages
  4. Topic page - an edit history as used on other Wiki sites
  5. Lecture/Practical - student feedback
  6. Student Projects - online project discussions.
Links: Pubmed Most Recent | Reference Tutorial | Journal Searches

Glossary Links

Glossary: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Numbers | Symbols | Term Link

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, April 19) Embryology Blastocyst Development. Retrieved from


Human blastoids model blastocyst development and implantation

Harunobu Kagawa # 1 , Alok Javali # 1 , Heidar Heidari Khoei # 1 , Theresa Maria Sommer 1 , Giovanni Sestini 1 , Maria Novatchkova 1 2 , Yvonne Scholte Op Reimer 1 , Gaël Castel 3 , Alexandre Bruneau 3 , Nina Maenhoudt 4 , Jenna Lammers 3 5 , Sophie Loubersac 3 5 , Thomas Freour 3 5 , Hugo Vankelecom 4 , Laurent David 3 6 , Nicolas Rivron 7 Affiliations expand PMID: 34856602 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04267-8 Abstract

One week after fertilization, human embryos implant into the uterus. This event requires that the embryo forms a blastocyst consisting of a sphere encircling a cavity lodging the embryo proper. Stem cells can form a blastocyst model, which we termed blastoid1. Here we show that naive human pluripotent stem cells (PXGL hPSCs)2 triply inhibited for the Hippo, TGF-β, and ERK pathways efficiently (>70%) form blastoids generating blastocyst-stage analogs of the 3 founding lineages (>97% trophectoderm, epiblast, and primitive endoderm) according to the sequence and timing of blastocyst development. Blastoids spontaneously form the first axis and we observe that the epiblast induces the maturation of the polar trophectoderm that consequently acquires the specific capacity to attach to hormonally-stimulated endometrial cells, as during implantation. Such a human blastoid is a faithful, scalable, and ethical model to explore human implantation and development3,4.


Computational analysis of single-cell transcriptomics data elucidates the stabilization of Oct4 expression in the E3.25 mouse preimplantation embryo

Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 20;9(1):8930. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-45438-y.

Gerovska D1,2, Araúzo-Bravo MJ3,4,5,6.

Our computational analysis focuses on the 32- to 64-cell mouse embryo transition, Embryonic day (E3.25), whose study in literature is concentrated mainly on the search for an early onset of the second cell-fate decision, the specification of the inner cell mass (ICM) to primitive endoderm (PE) and epiblast (EPI). We analysed single-cell (sc) microarray transcriptomics data from E3.25 using Hierarchical Optimal k-Means (HOkM) clustering, and identified two groups of ICM cells: a group of cells from embryos with less than 34 cells (E3.25-LNCs), and another group of cells from embryos with more than 33 cells (E3.25-HNCs), corresponding to two developmental stages. Although we found massive underlying heterogeneity in the ICM cells at E3.25-HNC with over 3,800 genes with transcriptomics bifurcation, many of which are PE and EPI markers, we showed that the E3.25-HNCs are neither PE nor EPI. Importantly, analysing the differently expressed genes between the E3.25-LNCs and E3.25-HNCs, we uncovered a non-autonomous mechanism, based on a minimal number of four inner-cell contacts in the ICM, which activates Oct4 in the preimplantation embryo. Oct4 is highly expressed but unstable at E3.25-LNC, and stabilizes at high level at E3.25-HNC, with Bsg highly expressed, and the chromatin remodelling program initialised to establish an early naïve pluripotent state. Our results indicate that the pluripotent state we found to exist in the ICM at E3.25-HNC is the in vivo counterpart of a new, very early pluripotent state. We compared the transcriptomics profile of this in vivo E3.25-HNC pluripotent state, together with the profiles of E3.25-LNC, E3.5 EPI and E4.5 EPI cells, with the profiles of all embryonic stem cells (ESCs) available in the GEO database from the same platform (over 600 microarrays). The shortest distance between the set of inner cells (E3.25, E3.5 and E4.5) and the ESCs is between the E3.25-HNC cells and 2i + LIF ESCs; thus, the developmental transition from 33 to 34 cells decreases dramatically the distance with the naïve ground state of the 2i + LIF ESCs. We validated the E3.25 events through analysis of scRNA-seq data from early and late 32-cell ICM cells. PMID: 31222057 DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-45438-y

Physiological profile of undifferentiated bovine blastocyst-derived trophoblasts

Biol Open. 2019 May 1;8(5). pii: bio037937. doi: 10.1242/bio.037937.

Pillai VV1, Siqueira LG2,3, Das M1, Kei TG1, Tu LN1, Herren AW4, Phinney BS4, Cheong SH5, Hansen PJ2, Selvaraj V6.

Trophectoderm of blastocysts mediate early events in fetal-maternal communication, enabling implantation and establishment of a functional placenta. Inadequate or impaired developmental events linked to trophoblasts directly impact early embryo survival and successful implantation during a crucial period that corresponds with high incidence of pregnancy losses in dairy cows. As yet, the molecular basis of bovine trophectoderm development and signaling towards initiation of implantation remains poorly understood. In this study, we developed methods for culturing undifferentiated bovine blastocyst-derived trophoblasts and used both transcriptomics and proteomics in early colonies to categorize and elucidate their functional characteristics. A total of 9270 transcripts and 1418 proteins were identified and analyzed based on absolute abundance. We profiled an extensive list of growth factors, cytokines and other relevant factors that can effectively influence paracrine communication in the uterine microenvironment. Functional categorization and analysis revealed novel information on structural organization, extracellular matrix composition, cell junction and adhesion components, transcription networks, and metabolic preferences. Our data showcase the fundamental physiology of bovine trophectoderm and indicate hallmarks of the self-renewing undifferentiated state akin to trophoblast stem cells described in other species. Functional features uncovered are essential for understanding early events in bovine pregnancy towards initiation of implantation.

© 2019. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.

KEYWORDS: Blastocyst; Implantation; Placenta; Pregnancy; Stem cells; Trophoblast PMID: 30952696


Mechanics of blastocyst morphogenesis

Biol Cell. 2017 Sep;109(9):323-338. doi: 10.1111/boc.201700029. Epub 2017 Aug 4.

Maître JL1.

Abstract During pre-implantation development, the mammalian zygote transforms into the blastocyst, the structure that will implant the embryo in the maternal uterus. Consisting of a squamous epithelium enveloping a fluid-filled cavity and the inner cell mass, the blastocyst is sculpted by a succession of morphogenetic events. These deformations result from the changes in the forces and mechanical properties of the tissue composing the embryo. Here, I review the recent studies, which, for the first time, informed us on the mechanics of blastocyst morphogenesis. KEYWORDS: Cell adhesion; Cytoskeleton; Development; Mammals PMID: 28681376 DOI: 10.1111/boc.201700029

Four simple rules that are sufficient to generate the mammalian blastocyst

PLoS Biol. 2017 Jul 12;15(7):e2000737. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2000737. eCollection 2017 Jul.

Nissen SB1, Perera M2, Gonzalez JM3, Morgani SM2, Jensen MH1, Sneppen K4, Brickman JM1,2, Trusina A1.


Early mammalian development is both highly regulative and self-organizing. It involves the interplay of cell position, predetermined gene regulatory networks, and environmental interactions to generate the physical arrangement of the blastocyst with precise timing. However, this process occurs in the absence of maternal information and in the presence of transcriptional stochasticity. How does the preimplantation embryo ensure robust, reproducible development in this context? It utilizes a versatile toolbox that includes complex intracellular networks coupled to cell-cell communication, segregation by differential adhesion, and apoptosis. Here, we ask whether a minimal set of developmental rules based on this toolbox is sufficient for successful blastocyst development, and to what extent these rules can explain mutant and experimental phenotypes. We implemented experimentally reported mechanisms for polarity, cell-cell signaling, adhesion, and apoptosis as a set of developmental rules in an agent-based in silico model of physically interacting cells. We find that this model quantitatively reproduces specific mutant phenotypes and provides an explanation for the emergence of heterogeneity without requiring any initial transcriptional variation. It also suggests that a fixed time point for the cells' competence of fibroblast growth factor (FGF)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) sets an embryonic clock that enables certain scaling phenomena, a concept that we evaluate quantitatively by manipulating embryos in vitro. Based on these observations, we conclude that the minimal set of rules enables the embryo to experiment with stochastic gene expression and could provide the robustness necessary for the evolutionary diversification of the preimplantation gene regulatory network. PMID: 28700688 PMCID: PMC5507476 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2000737


Asymmetric division of contractile domains couples cell positioning and fate specification

Maître JL, et al. Nature. 2016.

Abstract During pre-implantation development, the mammalian embryo self-organizes into the blastocyst, which consists of an epithelial layer encapsulating the inner-cell mass (ICM) giving rise to all embryonic tissues. In mice, oriented cell division, apicobasal polarity and actomyosin contractility are thought to contribute to the formation of the ICM. However, how these processes work together remains unclear. Here we show that asymmetric segregation of the apical domain generates blastomeres with different contractilities, which triggers their sorting into inner and outer positions. Three-dimensional physical modelling of embryo morphogenesis reveals that cells internalize only when differences in surface contractility exceed a predictable threshold. We validate this prediction using biophysical measurements, and successfully redirect cell sorting within the developing blastocyst using maternal myosin (Myh9)-knockout chimaeric embryos. Finally, we find that loss of contractility causes blastomeres to show ICM-like markers, regardless of their position. In particular, contractility controls Yap subcellular localization, raising the possibility that mechanosensing occurs during blastocyst lineage specification. We conclude that contractility couples the positioning and fate specification of blastomeres. We propose that this ensures the robust self-organization of blastomeres into the blastocyst, which confers remarkable regulative capacities to mammalian embryos.

PMID 27487217


Oct4 is required for lineage priming in the developing inner cell mass of the mouse blastocyst

Development. 2014 Mar;141(5):1001-10. doi: 10.1242/dev.096875. Epub 2014 Feb 6.

Le Bin GC1, Muñoz-Descalzo S, Kurowski A, Leitch H, Lou X, Mansfield W, Etienne-Dumeau C, Grabole N, Mulas C, Niwa H, Hadjantonakis AK, Nichols J.


The transcription factor Oct4 is required in vitro for establishment and maintenance of embryonic stem cells and for reprogramming somatic cells to pluripotency. In vivo, it prevents the ectopic differentiation of early embryos into trophoblast. Here, we further explore the role of Oct4 in blastocyst formation and specification of epiblast versus primitive endoderm lineages using conditional genetic deletion. Experiments involving mouse embryos deficient for both maternal and zygotic Oct4 suggest that it is dispensable for zygote formation, early cleavage and activation of Nanog expression. Nanog protein is significantly elevated in the presumptive inner cell mass of Oct4 null embryos, suggesting an unexpected role for Oct4 in attenuating the level of Nanog, which might be significant for priming differentiation during epiblast maturation. Induced deletion of Oct4 during the morula to blastocyst transition disrupts the ability of inner cell mass cells to adopt lineage-specific identity and acquire the molecular profile characteristic of either epiblast or primitive endoderm. Sox17, a marker of primitive endoderm, is not detected following prolonged culture of such embryos, but can be rescued by provision of exogenous FGF4. Interestingly, functional primitive endoderm can be rescued in Oct4-deficient embryos in embryonic stem cell complementation assays, but only if the host embryos are at the pre-blastocyst stage. We conclude that cell fate decisions within the inner cell mass are dependent upon Oct4 and that Oct4 is not cell-autonomously required for the differentiation of primitive endoderm derivatives, as long as an appropriate developmental environment is established. KEYWORDS: Blastocyst; Chimaera; Nanog; Oct4 (Pou5f1); Primitive endoderm; Sox17

PMID 24504341


Cross-Species Genome Wide Expression Analysis during Pluripotent Cell Determination in Mouse and Rat Preimplantation Embryos

PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47107. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047107. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

Casanova EA, Okoniewski MJ, Cinelli P. Source Institute of Laboratory Animal Science, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


The transition between morula and blastocyst stage during preimplantation development represents the first differentiation event of embryogenesis. Morula cells undergo the first cellular specialization and produce two well-defined populations of cells, the trophoblast and the inner cell mass (ICM). Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) with unlimited self-renewal capacity are believed to represent the in vitro counterpart of the ICM. Both mouse and rat ESCs can be derived from the ICM cells, but their in vitro stability differs. In this study we performed a microarray analysis in which we compared the transcriptome of mouse and rat morula, blastocyst, and ICM. This cross-species comparison represents a good model for understanding the differences in derivation and cultivation of ESCs observed in the two species. In order to identify alternative regulation of important molecular mechanisms the investigation of differential gene expression between the two species was extended at the level of signaling pathways, gene families, and single selected genes of interest. Some of the genes differentially expressed between the two species are already known to be important factors in the maintenance of pluripotency in ESCs, like for example Sox2 or Stat3, or play a role in reprogramming somatic cells to pluripotency like c-Myc, Klf4 and p53 and therefore represent interesting candidates to further analyze in vitro in the rat ESCs. This is the first study investigating the gene expression changes during the transition from morula to blastocyst in the rat preimplantation development. Our data show that in the pluripotent pool of cells of the rat and mouse preimplantation embryo substantial differential regulation of genes is present, which might explain the difficulties observed for the derivation and culture of rat ESCs using mouse conditions.

PMID 23077551

Yamagata K, Iwamoto D, Terashita Y, Li C, Wakayama S, et al. (2012) Fluorescence Cell Imaging and Manipulation Using Conventional Halogen Lamp Microscopy. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31638.

Functional Analysis of Lysosomes During Mouse Preimplantation Embryo Development

J Reprod Dev. 2012 Oct 19.

Tsukamoto S, Hara T, Yamamoto A, Ohta Y, Wada A, Ishida Y, Kito S, Nishikawa T, Minami N, Sato K, Kokubo T. Source Laboratory Animal and Genome Sciences Section, National Institute of Radiological Sciences, Chiba 263-8555, Japan.


Lysosomes are acidic and highly dynamic organelles that are essential for macromolecule degradation and many other cellular functions. However, little is known about lysosomal function during early embryogenesis. Here, we found that the number of lysosomes increased after fertilization. Lysosomes were abundant during mouse preimplantation development until the morula stage, but their numbers decreased slightly in blastocysts. Consistently, the protein expression level of mature cathepsins B and D was high from the one-cell to morula stages but low in the blastocyst stage. One-cell embryos injected with siRNAs targeted to both lysosome-associated membrane protein 1 and 2 (LAMP1 and LAMP2) were developmentally arrested at the two-cell stage. Pharmacological inhibition of lysosomes also caused developmental retardation, resulting in accumulation of lipofuscin. Our findings highlight the functional changes in lysosomes in mouse preimplantation embryos.

PMID 23080372



FGF signal-dependent segregation of primitive endoderm and epiblast in the mouse blastocyst

Development. 2010 Mar;137(5):715-24.

Yamanaka Y, Lanner F, Rossant J. Source Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8, Canada.


Primitive endoderm (PE) and epiblast (EPI) are two lineages derived from the inner cell mass (ICM) of the E3.5 blastocyst. Recent studies showed that EPI and PE progenitors expressing the lineage-specific transcriptional factors Nanog and Gata6, respectively, arise progressively as the ICM develops. Subsequent sorting of the two progenitors during blastocyst maturation results in the ormation of morphologically distinct EPI and PE layers at E4.5. It is, however, unknown how the initial differences between the two populations become established in the E3.5 blastocyst. Because the ICM cells are derived from two distinct rounds of polarized cell divisions during cleavage, a possible role for cell lineage history in promoting EPI versus PE fate has been proposed. We followed cell lineage from the eight-cell stage by live cell tracing and could find no clear linkage between developmental history of individual ICM cells and later cell fate. However, modulating FGF signaling levels by inhibition of the receptor/MAP kinase pathway or by addition of exogenous FGF shifted the fate of ICM cells to become either EPI or PE, respectively. Nanog- or Gata6-expressing progenitors could still be shifted towards the alternative fate by modulating FGF signaling during blastocyst maturation, suggesting that the ICM progenitors are not fully committed to their final fate at the time that initial segregation of gene expression occurs. In conclusion, we propose a model in which stochastic and progressive specification of EPI and PE lineages occurs during maturation of the blastocyst in an FGF/MAP kinase signal-dependent manner.

PMID 20147376

Individual blastomeres of 16- and 32-cell mouse embryos are able to develop into foetuses and mice

Dev Biol. 2010 Oct 7.

Tarkowski AK, Suwińska A, Czołowska R, Ożdżeński W.

Abstract Cell and developmental studies have clarified how, by the time of implantation, the mouse embryo forms three primary cell lineages: epiblast (EPI), primitive endoderm (PE), and trophectoderm (TE). However, it still remains unknown when cells allocated to these three lineages become determined in their developmental fate. To address this question, we studied the developmental potential of single blastomeres derived from 16- and 32-cell stage embryos and supported by carrier, tetraploid blastomeres. We were able to generate singletons, identical twins, triplets, and quadruplets from individual inner and outer cells of 16-cell embryos and, sporadically, foetuses from single cells of 32-cell embryos. The use of embryos constitutively expressing GFP as the donors of single diploid blastomeres enabled us to identify their cell progeny in the constructed 2n↔4n blastocysts. We showed that the descendants of donor blastomeres were able to locate themselves in all three first cell lineages, i.e., epiblast, primitive endoderm, and trophectoderm. In addition, the application of Cdx2 and Gata4 markers for trophectoderm and primitive endoderm, respectively, showed that the expression of these two genes in the descendants of donor blastomeres was either down- or up-regulated, depending on the cell lineage they happened to occupy. Thus, our results demonstrate that up to the early blastocysts stage, the destiny of at least some blastomeres, although they have begun to express markers of different lineage, is still labile.

Copyright © 2010. Published by Elsevier Inc. PMID 20932967

Brg1 is required for Cdx2-mediated repression of Oct4 expression in mouse blastocysts

PLoS One. 2010 May 12;5(5):e10622.

Wang K, Sengupta S, Magnani L, Wilson CA, Henry RW, Knott JG.

Developmental Epigenetics Laboratory, Department of Animal Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, United States of America. Abstract During blastocyst formation the segregation of the inner cell mass (ICM) and trophectoderm is governed by the mutually antagonistic effects of the transcription factors Oct4 and Cdx2. Evidence indicates that suppression of Oct4 expression in the trophectoderm is mediated by Cdx2. Nonetheless, the underlying epigenetic modifiers required for Cdx2-dependent repression of Oct4 are largely unknown. Here we show that the chromatin remodeling protein Brg1 is required for Cdx2-mediated repression of Oct4 expression in mouse blastocysts. By employing a combination of RNA interference (RNAi) and gene expression analysis we found that both Brg1 Knockdown (KD) and Cdx2 KD blastocysts exhibit widespread expression of Oct4 in the trophectoderm. Interestingly, in Brg1 KD blastocysts and Cdx2 KD blastocysts, the expression of Cdx2 and Brg1 is unchanged, respectively. To address whether Brg1 cooperates with Cdx2 to repress Oct4 transcription in the developing trophectoderm, we utilized preimplantation embryos, trophoblast stem (TS) cells and Cdx2-inducible embryonic stem (ES) cells as model systems. We found that: (1) combined knockdown (KD) of Brg1 and Cdx2 levels in blastocysts resulted in increased levels of Oct4 transcripts compared to KD of Brg1 or Cdx2 alone, (2) endogenous Brg1 co-immunoprecipitated with Cdx2 in TS cell extracts, (3) in blastocysts Brg1 and Cdx2 co-localize in trophectoderm nuclei and (4) in Cdx2-induced ES cells Brg1 and Cdx2 are recruited to the Oct4 promoter. Lastly, to determine how Brg1 may induce epigenetic silencing of the Oct4 gene, we evaluated CpG methylation at the Oct4 promoter in the trophectoderm of Brg1 KD blastocysts. This analysis revealed that Brg1-dependent repression of Oct4 expression is independent of DNA methylation at the blastocyst stage. In toto, these results demonstrate that Brg1 cooperates with Cdx2 to repress Oct4 expression in the developing trophectoderm to ensure normal development.

PMID 20485553

Origin and formation of the first two distinct cell types of the inner cell mass in the mouse embryo

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 6;107(14):6364-9. Epub 2010 Mar 22.

Morris SA, Teo RT, Li H, Robson P, Glover DM, Zernicka-Goetz M. Source Department of Physiology, Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EH, United Kingdom.


A crucial question in mammalian development is how cells of the early embryo differentiate into distinct cell types. The first decision is taken when cells undertake waves of asymmetric division that generate one daughter on the inside and one on the outside of the embryo. After this division, some cells on the inside remain pluripotent and give rise to the epiblast, and hence the future body, whereas others develop into the primitive endoderm, an extraembryonic tissue. How the fate of these inside cells is decided is unknown: Is the process random, or is it related to their developmental origins? To address this question, we traced all cells by live-cell imaging in intact, unmanipulated embryos until the epiblast and primitive endoderm became distinct. This analysis revealed that inner cell mass (ICM) cells have unrestricted developmental potential. However, cells internalized by the first wave of asymmetric divisions are biased toward forming pluripotent epiblast, whereas cells internalized in the next two waves of divisions are strongly biased toward forming primitive endoderm. Moreover, we show that cells internalized by the second wave up-regulate expression of Gata6 and Sox17, and changing the expression of these genes determines whether the cells become primitive endoderm. Finally, with our ability to determine the origin of cells, we find that inside cells that are mispositioned when they are born can sort into the correct layer. In conclusion, we propose a model in which the timing of cell internalization, cell position, and cell sorting combine to determine distinct lineages of the preimplantation mouse embryo.

PMID 20308546

Non-invasive imaging of human embryos before embryonic genome activation predicts development to the blastocyst stage

Nat Biotechnol. 2010 Oct 3. [Epub ahead of print]

Wong CC, Loewke KE, Bossert NL, Behr B, De Jonge CJ, Baer TM, Pera RA.

[1] Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA. [2] Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA. [3] These authors contributed equally to this work. Abstract We report studies of preimplantation human embryo development that correlate time-lapse image analysis and gene expression profiling. By examining a large set of zygotes from in vitro fertilization (IVF), we find that success in progression to the blastocyst stage can be predicted with >93% sensitivity and specificity by measuring three dynamic, noninvasive imaging parameters by day 2 after fertilization, before embryonic genome activation (EGA). These parameters can be reliably monitored by automated image analysis, confirming that successful development follows a set of carefully orchestrated and predictable events. Moreover, we show that imaging phenotypes reflect molecular programs of the embryo and of individual blastomeres. Single-cell gene expression analysis reveals that blastomeres develop cell autonomously, with some cells advancing to EGA and others arresting. These studies indicate that success and failure in human embryo development is largely determined before EGA. Our methods and algorithms may provide an approach for early diagnosis of embryo potential in assisted reproduction.

PMID 20890283

(CCC permission for reuse 7oct2010)

Imaging proprotein convertase activities and their regulation in the implanting mouse blastocyst

Mesnard D, Constam DB. J Cell Biol. 2010 Oct 4;191(1):129-39. Epub 2010 Sep 27.

Axis formation and allocation of pluripotent progenitor cells to the germ layers are governed by the TGF-β-related Nodal precursor and its secreted proprotein convertases (PCs) Furin and Pace4. However, when and where Furin and Pace4 first become active have not been determined. To study the distribution of PCs, we developed a novel cell surface-targeted fluorescent biosensor (cell surface-linked indicator of proteolysis [CLIP]). Live imaging of CLIP in wild-type and Furin- and Pace4-deficient embryonic stem cells and embryos revealed that Furin and Pace4 are already active at the blastocyst stage in the inner cell mass and can cleave membrane-bound substrate both cell autonomously and nonautonomously. CLIP was also cleaved in the epiblast of implanted embryos, in part by a novel activity in the uterus that is independent of zygotic Furin and Pace4, suggesting a role for maternal PCs during embryonic development. The unprecedented sensitivity and spatial resolution of CLIP opens exciting new possibilities to elucidate PC functions in vivo.

PMID 20876279

New technique to quantify the lipid composition of lipid droplets in porcine oocytes and pre-implantation embryos using Nile Red fluorescent probe

Theriogenology. 2010 Sep 10. [Epub ahead of print]

Romek M, Gajda B, Krzysztofowicz E, Kepczynski M, Smorag Z.

Department of Cytology and Histology, Institute of Zoology, Jagiellonian University, R. Ingardena 6, 30-060 Krakow, Poland.


The principal objective of this study was to develop a novel method based on confocal microscopy and a solvatochromic fluorescent dye, Nile red (NR) to quantify the main types of lipids in a single mammalian oocyte and embryo. We hypothesize that NR staining followed by the decomposition of NR-spectra identifies and quantifies the triglycerides, phospholipids, and cholesterol in a single oocyte and embryo. We analyzed the lipid droplets in porcine oocytes and pre-implantation embryos up to the hatched blastocyst stage developed in vivo and in cultured blastocysts. The emission spectrum of NR-stained mixture of different lipid types is a convolution of several component spectra. The principal component analysis (PCA) and a multivariate curve resolution-alternating least squares method (MCR-ALS) allowed to decompose the emission spectrum and quantify the relative amount of each lipid type present in mixture. We reported here that the level of the triglycerides, phospholipids and cholesterol in lipid droplets significantly decreases by 17.7%, 26.4% and 23.9%, respectively, from immature to mature porcine oocytes. The content of triglycerides and phospholipids remains unchanged in droplets of embryos from the zygote up to the morula stage. Then the triglyceride level decreases in the blastocyst by 15.1% and in the hatched blastocyst by 37.3%, whereas the amount of phospholipids decreases by 10.5% and 12.5% at the blastocyst and hatched blastocyst stages, respectively. In contrast, the content of cholesterol in droplets does not change during embryo cleavage. The lipid droplets in the blastocyst produced in vivo contain lower amounts of triglycerides (by 26.1%), phospholipids (by 14.2%) and cholesterol (by 34.8%) than those in the blastocyst cultured in NCSU-23 medium. In conclusion, our new technique is suitable to quantify the content of triglycerides, phospholipids and cholesterol in individual mammalian oocytes and embryos. Our findings indicate an important role for lipids during porcine oocyte maturation and early embryonic development, and suggest an altered lipid metabolism in cultured embryos.

PMID 20833424

Number of blastomeres and distribution of microvilli in cloned mouse embryos during compaction

Zygote. 2010 Aug 25:1-6.

Li CB, Wang ZD, Zheng Z, Hu LL, Zhong SQ, Lei L.

Department of Histology and Embryology, Harbin Medical University, Harbin, China. Abstract SummaryThe events resulting in compaction have an important influence on the processes related to blastocyst formation. To analyse the quality of the embryos obtained by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) in aspects different from previous studies, not only the number of blastomeres of cloned embryos during the initiation of compaction, but also the distribution of microvilli in cloned, normal, parthenogenetic, and tetraploid embryos before and after compaction was preliminarily investigated in mouse. Our results showed that during compaction the number of blastomeres in SCNT embryos was fewer than that in intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) embryos and, before compaction, there was a uniform distribution of microvilli over the blastomere surface, but microvilli became restricted to an apical region after compaction in the four types of embryos. We also reported here that the time course of compaction in SCNT embryos was about 3 h delayed compared with that in ICSI embryos, while there was no significant difference between SCNT and ICSI embryos when developed to the 4-cell stage. We concluded that: (i) the cleavage of blastomeres in cloned embryos was slow at least before compaction; (ii) the distribution of microvilli in cloned, normal, parthenogenetic, and tetraploid embryos was coherent before and after compaction; and (iii) the initiation of compaction in SCNT embryos was delayed compared with that of ICSI embryos.

PMID 20735894

Hatching and distribution of actin filaments in mouse blastocysts whose activities of protein kinase A were suppressed by H-89

J Reprod Dev. 2010 Feb;56(1):103-9. Epub 2009 Nov 2.

Suzuki R, Niimura S.

Graduate School of Science and Technology, Niigata University, Japan.


The role of actin filaments and contractions in hatching was determined in mouse blastocysts whose actin filament bundling abilities had been suppressed by H-89, an inhibitor of protein kinase A. The hatching rate of blastocysts developed from morulae in a medium containing H-89 at a concentration of 4.0 microM was 17.2%, which was significantly lower than the 76.7% of the control blastocysts developed from morulae in a medium without H-89. The rates of blastocysts starting hatching and forming a slit in the zona pellucida were significantly lower in H-89-treated blastocysts (84.4 and 21.9%) than in control blastocysts (100.0 and 90.6%). The lengths of time needed for slit formation in the zona pellucida and for completion of hatching were significantly longer in the H-89-treated blastocysts (27.4 and 43.3 h) than in the control blastocysts (6.5 and 18.8 h). Over the course of 32 h after blastocoel formation, the number of strong contractions was similar in the H-89-treated and control blastocysts, but the number of weak contractions was significantly fewer in the H-89-treated blastocysts (2.41 times) than in the control blastocysts (4.19 times). Although the distribution of actin filaments was similar in the H-89-treated and control blastocysts in the pre-hatching, hatching and post-hatching periods, the rate of H-89-treated blastocysts in which most trophectoderm cells possessed the fluorescence of actin filaments (12.7%) was significantly lower than the 95.0% of the control blastocysts in the pre-hatching period. These results suggest that actin filament-mediated movements of trophectoderm cells contribute to hatching by facilitating the protrusion of trophectoderm cells from a small hole in the zona pellucida and by enlarging the protrusion. We also suggest that the low hatching ability of the treated blastocysts is related to weak contractions with a low frequency and to strong contractions requiring a longer time for re-expansion.

PMID 19881218


PMID 20042384


The four blastomeres of a 4-cell stage human embryo are able to develop individually into blastocysts with inner cell mass and trophectoderm

Hum Reprod. 2008 Aug;23(8):1742-7. Epub 2008 May 24.

Van de Velde H, Cauffman G, Tournaye H, Devroey P, Liebaers I. Source Research Centre Reproduction and Genetics, Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel (UZ Brussel), Laarbeeklaan 101, 1090 Brussels, Belgium.


BACKGROUND: Early mammalian blastomeres are thought to be flexible and totipotent allowing the embryo to overcome perturbations in its organization during preimplantation development. In the past, experiments using single blastomeres from 2-, 4- and 8-cell stage mammalian embryos have provided evidence that at least some of the isolated cells can develop into healthy fertile animals and therefore are totipotent. We investigated whether isolated blastomeres of human 4-cell stage embryos could develop in vitro into blastocysts with trophectoderm (TE) and inner cell mass (ICM).

METHODS: Six 4-cell stage human embryos were split and the four blastomeres were cultured individually. The expression of NANOG, a marker for ICM cells, was analysed by immunocytochemistry.

RESULTS: The majority of the blastomere-derived embryos followed the normal pattern of development with compaction on Day 4 and cavitation on Day 5 and developed into small blastocysts with TE and ICM on Day 6 (n = 12). The four cells of one embryo were individually capable of developing into blastocysts with TE and ICM, and NANOG was expressed in the ICM.

CONCLUSIONS: Although based on a small number of embryos, we conclude that the blastomeres of a 4-cell stage human embryo are flexible and able to develop into blastocysts with ICM and TE.

PMID 18503052

Tead4 is required for specification of trophectoderm in pre-implantation mouse embryos

Nishioka N, Yamamoto S, Kiyonari H, Sato H, Sawada A, Ota M, Nakao K, Sasaki H.

Mech Dev. 2008 Mar-Apr;125(3-4):270-83. Epub 2007 Nov 17.

Laboratory for Embryonic Induction, RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, 2-2-3 Minatojima-minamimachi, Chuo, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0047, Japan. Abstract During pre-implantation mouse development, embryos form blastocysts with establishment of the first two cell lineages: the trophectoderm (TE) which gives rise to the placenta, and the inner cell mass (ICM) which will form the embryo proper. Differentiation of TE is regulated by the transcription factor Caudal-related homeobox 2 (Cdx2), but the mechanisms which act upstream of Cdx2 expression remain unknown. Here we show that the TEA domain family transcription factor, Tead4, is required for TE development. Tead1, Tead2 and Tead4 were expressed in pre-implantation embryos, and at least Tead1 and Tead4 were expressed widely in both TE and ICM lineages. Tead4-/- embryos died at pre-implantation stages without forming the blastocoel. The mutant embryos continued cell proliferation, and adherens junction and cell polarity were not significantly affected. In Tead4-/- embryos, Cdx2 was weakly expressed at the morula stage but was not expressed in later stages. None of the TE specific genes, including Eomes and a Cdx2 independent gene, Fgfr2, was detected in Tead4-/- embryos. Instead, the ICM specific transcription factors, Oct3/4 and Nanog, were expressed in all the blastomeres. Tead4-/- embryos also failed to differentiate trophoblast giant cells when they were cultured in vitro. ES cells with normal in vitro differentiation abilities were established from Tead4-/- embryos. These results suggest that Tead4 has a distinct role from Tead1 and Tead2 in trophectoderm specification of pre-implantation embryos, and that Tead4 is an early transcription factor required for specification and development of the trophectoderm lineage, which includes expression of Cdx2.

PMID: 18083014


Compaction is initiated by E-cadherin mediated cell adhesion, which is regulated post-translationally via protein kinase C

Gene replacement reveals a specific role for E-cadherin in the formation of a functional trophectoderm. Kan NG, Stemmler MP, Junghans D, Kanzler B, de Vries WN, Dominis M, Kemler R. Development. 2007 Jan;134(1):31-41. Epub 2006 Nov 30. PMID: 17138661

"During mammalian embryogenesis the trophectoderm represents the first epithelial structure formed. The cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin is ultimately necessary for the transition from compacted morula to the formation of the blastocyst to ensure correct establishment of adhesion junctions in the trophectoderm. Here, we analyzed to what extent E-cadherin confers unique adhesion and signaling properties in trophectoderm formation in vivo. Using a gene replacement approach, we introduced N-cadherin cDNA into the E-cadherin genomic locus. We show that the expression of N-cadherin driven from the E-cadherin locus reflects the expression pattern of endogenous E-cadherin. Heterozygous mice co-expressing E- and N-cadherin are vital and show normal embryonic development. Interestingly, N-cadherin homozygous mutant embryos phenocopy E-cadherin-null mutant embryos. Upon removal of the maternal E-cadherin, we demonstrate that N-cadherin is able to provide sufficient cellular adhesion to mediate morula compaction, but is insufficient for the subsequent formation of a fully polarized functional trophectoderm. When ES cells were isolated from N-cadherin homozygous mutant embryos and teratomas were produced, these ES cells differentiated into a large variety of tissue-like structures. Importantly, different epithelial-like structures expressing N-cadherin were formed, including respiratory epithelia, squamous epithelia with signs of keratinization and secretory epithelia with goblet cells. Thus, N-cadherin can maintain epithelia in differentiating ES cells, but not during the formation of the trophectoderm. Our results point to a specific and unique function for E-cadherin during mouse preimplantation development."

Phosphorylation of ezrin on threonine T567 plays a crucial role during compaction in the mouse early embryo. Dard N, Louvet-Vallée S, Santa-Maria A, Maro B. Dev Biol. 2004 Jul 1;271(1):87-97. PMID: 15196952


Cell and molecular regulation of the mouse blastocyst

Dev Dyn. 2006 Sep;235(9):2301-14.

Yamanaka Y, Ralston A, Stephenson RO, Rossant J.

Program of Developmental Biology, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Abstract Animals use diverse strategies to specify tissue lineages during development. A common strategy is to partition maternally supplied and localized lineage determinants into progenitor cells. The mouse embryo appears to use a different, more regulative strategy to specify the first three lineages: the epiblast (EPI: future embryo), the trophectoderm (TE: future placenta), and the primitive endoderm (PE: future yolk sac). These lineages are specified during two successive differentiation steps leading to formation of the blastocyst. Here, we review classic and contemporary models of early lineage specification in the mouse, and describe recent efforts to understand the molecular regulation of these events. We describe evidence that trophectoderm differentiation bears resemblance to the process of epithelialization and describe the importance of apical/basal protein complexes in regulating this process. Next, we present a revised model of PE specification, and describe evidence that PE cells in the inner cell mass sort out to occupy their ultimate position on the surface of the EPI. Finally, we describe factors that reinforce these lineages and three distinct stem cell types that can be isolated from them. Together, these mechanisms guide the differentiation of the first lineages of the mouse and thereby set up tissues that will be important for the first steps of embryonic body patterning.

Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc. PMID: 16773657


Expression of epithin in mouse preimplantation development: its functional role in compaction

Khang I, Sonn S, Park JH, Rhee K, Park D, Kim K. Dev Biol. 2005 May 1;281(1):134-44. PMID: 15848395

=A targeted mutation in the mouse E-cadherin gene results in defective preimplantation development

Riethmacher D, Brinkmann V, Birchmeier C. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Jan 31;92(3):855-9. PMID: 7846066

Zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) is involved in morula to blastocyst transformation in the mouse. Wang H, Ding T, Brown N, Yamamoto Y, Prince LS, Reese J, Paria BC. Dev Biol. 2008 Jun 1;318(1):112-25. Epub 2008 Mar 20. PMID: 18423437

Time-lapse videomicrographic analyses of contractions in mouse blastocysts

J Reprod Dev. 2003 Dec;49(6):413-23.

Niimura S.

Faculty of Agriculture, Niigata University, Japan. Abstract Contraction has been observed in cultured blastocysts of many mammals, but little is known about the features of the contraction and its physiological role in blastocysts. The author analyzed contractions of a large number of cultured mouse blastocysts by time-lapse videomicrography. The results revealed that blastocysts repeated contractions of different degrees during the expanded stage from 10 h after blastocoel formation, and that the number of contractions was greater during the hatching period than in the periods pre- and post-hatching. The results also showed that the time needed for both contraction and re-expansion to the size before contraction tended to lengthen in blastocysts severely contracted. It was inferred that contractions of blastocysts occur physiologically in relation to myosin light chain kinase, but not due to an increase in permeability between trophectoderm cells in association with their division, or the influence of culture. Furthermore, it was inferred that re-expansion of contracted blastocysts occurs due to active transport and accumulation of Na(+) from the trophectoderm cells into blastocoelic fluid as a result of the action of Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase activated in the membrane of trophectoderm cells. Our results suggested that contractions are also present in blastocysts developed in vivo, and that weak contractions (less than 20% volume reduction) play an important role in hatching, whereas strong contractions (20% or more volume reduction) have the effect of inhibiting hatching. From our results on contractions of various blastocysts, it seems possible to evaluate the developmental ability of embryos, i.e. embryo quality, based on contractions of blastocysts.

PMID: 14967891

Advanced embryo development during extended in vitro culture: observations of formation and hatching patterns in non-transferred human blastocysts

Hum Fertil (Camb). 2002 Nov;5(4):215-20.

Porter RN, Tucker MJ, Graham J, Sills ES.

Division of Cell Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton S016 7PX, UK. Abstract Human embryos not chosen for fresh transfer or cryopreservation were maintained in extended in vitro culture for up to 9 days after fertilization to observe blastocyst formation and hatching features. These non-transferred embryos were derived from 64 consecutive IVF cycles, and were not cryopreserved either because of compromised morphology or because the patients did not consent to cryopreservation for personal reasons. Embryos were cultured individually to monitor daily growth until developmental arrest, and differential blastocyst formation and hatching were analysed among groups of patients and embryos. In the population studied, hatching occurred most commonly on day 7 after fertilization (range 5-9 days). A total of 301 blastocysts was observed, of which 116 (38.5%) eventually hatched in vitro irrespective of day of formation. A trend towards earlier blastocyst formation and a greater likelihood of hatching was noted in this population. Both blastocyst formation and hatching appeared negatively correlated with increasing maternal age and higher basal serum FSH concentrations on day 3 of development, although these trends did not reach statistical significance. Comparison of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) (n = 25) and conventional insemination (n = 39) cycles showed a similar rate of blastocyst formation in both groups (54 and 52%, respectively; P > 0.05), but hatching patterns varied significantly between these groups (4.1 versus 61.6%, respectively; P < 0.0001). The discovery of marked impairment of hatching among non-transferred ICSI embryos supports the case for reconsideration of the appropriateness of assisted blastocyst hatching in selected cases.

PMID: 12477966

Regulation of blastocyst formation

Watson AJ, Barcroft LC. Front Biosci. 2001 May 1;6:D708-30. Review. PMID: 11333210

"Preimplantation or pre-attachment development encompasses the "free"-living period of mammalian embryogenesis, which directs development of the zygote through to the blastocyst stage. Blastocyst formation is essential for implantation, establishment of pregnancy and is a principal determinant of embryo quality prior to embryo transfer. Cavitation (blastocyst formation) is driven by the expression of specific sets of gene products that direct the acquisition of cell polarity within the trophectoderm, which is both the first epithelium of development and the outer cell layer encircling the inner cell mass of the blastocyst. Critical gene families controlling these events include: the E-cadherin-catenin cell adhesion family, the tight junction gene family, the Na/K-ATPase gene family and perhaps the aquaporin gene family. This review will update the roles of each of these gene families in trophectoderm differentiation and blastocyst formation. The current principal hypothesis under investigation is that blastocyst formation is mediated by a trans-trophectoderm ion gradient(s) established, in part, by Na/K-ATPase, which drives the movement of water through aquaporins (AQPs) across the epithelium into the extracellular space of the blastocyst to form the fluid-filled blastocoel. The trophectoderm tight junctional permeability seal regulates the leakage of blastocoel fluid, and also assists in the maintenance of a polarized Na/K-ATPase distribution to the basolateral plasma membrane domain of the mural trophectoderm. The cell-to-cell adhesion provided by the E-cadherin-catenin gene families is required for the establishment of the tight junction seal and the maintenance of the polarized Na/K-ATPase distribution. Blastocyst formation is therefore directly linked with trophectoderm cell differentiation, which arises through fundamental cell biological processes that are associated with the establishment of cell polarity."


GLUT8 is a glucose transporter responsible for insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in the blastocyst

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Jun 20;97(13):7313-8.

Carayannopoulos MO, Chi MM, Cui Y, Pingsterhaus JM, McKnight RA, Mueckler M, Devaskar SU, Moley KH.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 4911 Barnes-Jewish Hospital Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA. Abstract Mammalian preimplantation blastocysts exhibit insulin-stimulated glucose uptake despite the absence of the only known insulin-regulated transporter, GLUT4. We describe a previously unidentified member of the mammalian facilitative GLUT superfamily that exhibits approximately 20-25% identity with other murine facilitative GLUTs. Insulin induces a change in the intracellular localization of this protein, which translates into increased glucose uptake into the blastocyst, a process that is inhibited by antisense oligoprobes. Presence of this transporter may be necessary for successful blastocyst development, fuel metabolism, and subsequent implantation. Moreover, the existence of an alternative transporter may explain examples in other tissues of insulin-regulated glucose transport in the absence of GLUT4.

PMID: 10860996

  • GLUT8 is a glucose transporter responsible for insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in the blastocyst
  • mammalian development when embryonic fuel metabolism switches from the oxidation of lactate and pyruvate via the Krebs cycle and oxidative phosphorylation to anaerobic metabolism of glucose via glycolysis.
  • This critical substrate change is thought to be due to the biosynthetic and developmental demands placed on the embryo as the blastocyst creates the fluid-filled blastocoel and prepares for implantation.