Mural trophectoderm cells of the mouse embryo possess a phagocytic potential as early as 3.5?days post coitum (d.p.c.). This first differentiated function shows a graded variation along the embryonic–abembryonic axis, from a maximal activity in the non-dividing cells of the abembryonic pole to a complete lack of activity in the replicating polar trophectoderm overlying the inner cell mass (ICM). This pattern can be explained by a negative control exerted by the ICM. Addition of FGF4, a factor secreted by ICM cells, strongly inhibited phagocytosis while inducing resumption of DNA synthesis in mural trophectoderm cells, revealing a reversible, FGF4-dependent differentiation state. Under conditions in which a small cluster of mural trophectoderm cells (<10) had internalized large particles, these otherwise morphologically normal embryos could not implant in the uterus, indicating that cells at the abembryonic pole have a critical role in initiating the implantation process. At post-implantation stages (6.5–8.5?d.p.c.), the ectoplacental cone and secondary giant cells derived from the polar trophectoderm also contained active phagocytes, but at that stage, differentiation was not reversed by FGF4.
Two layers of extra-embryonic endoderm, viz. the parietal endoderm (PE) and the visceral endoderm (VE), arise in the mouse embryo shortly after implantation. Both cell populations apparently originate from the primitive endoderm of the blastocyst. While the endoderm differentiation has been studied both in the embryo and in the embryonal carcinoma model system, the investigation has been hampered by the paucity of unequivocal markers of differentiation, especially in the case of the PE. Here we show that the PE and VE of mouse conceptuses differ in their expression of intermediate filaments: while both cell types contain cytokeratin, expression of vimentin was only revealed in the cells of the PE. The association between the differentiation of PE and the appearance of vimentin filaments is discussed.
Previous studies have suggested that the vav protooncogene plays an important role in hematopoiesis. To study this further, we have ablated the vav protooncogene by homologous recombination in embryonic stem (ES) cells. Homozygous vav (-/-) ES clones differentiate normally in culture and generate cells of erythroid, myeloid and mast cell lineages. Mice heterozygous for the targeted vav allele do not display any obvious abnormalities. However, homozygous embryos die very early during development. Crosses of vav (+/-) heterozygous mice yield apparently normal vav (-/-) E3.5 embryos but not post-implantation embryos (> or = E7.5). Furthermore, homozygous vav (-/-) blastocysts do not hatch in vitro. These results indicate that vav is essential for an early developmental step(s) that precedes the onset of hematopoiesis. Consistent with the phenotypic analysis of vav (-/-) embryos, we have identified Vav immunoreactivity in the extra-embryonic trophoblastic cell layer but not in the inner embryonic cell mass of E3.5 preimplantation embryos or in the egg cylinder of E6.5 and E7.5 post-implantation embryos. These results suggest that the vav gene is essential for normal trophoblast development and for implantation of the developing embryo.
The lethal nonagouti (a(x)) mutation is a hypomorphic allele of the agouti coat color locus which, when homozygous, also leads to embryonic death around the time of implantation. To understand the molecular basis of these phenotypes, we identified and cloned a deletion breakpoint junction present in the ax chromosome. Long range restriction mapping demonstrated a simple deletion of approximately 100 kb, which does not affect agouti coding sequences, but begins only 4 kb 3' of the last exon, and thus may affect coat color by removing an agouti 3' enhancer. The Ahcy gene, which codes for the enzyme S-adenosylhomocysteine hydrolase (SAHase), is contained within a 20 kb region within the a(x) deletion. SAHase RNA and protein were detectable in early blastocysts and in embryonic stem cells, respectively, and analysis of embryos derived from an a(x)/a x a(x)/a embryo intercross indicated that a(x)/a embryos die between the late blastocyst and early implantation stages. Treatment of cultured embryos with an SAHase inhibitor, 3-deazaaristeromycin, or with metabolites that can result in elevated levels of cellular SAH, resulted in an inhibition of inner cell mass development, suggesting that loss of SAHase activity in a(x)/a(x) embryos is sufficient to explain their death around the time of implantation.
Pre-implantation embryos were infected with the retroviral vector MMCV-neo, which carries the neomycin resistance (neo) gene and the v-myc gene. Three transgenic substrains (M-TKneo 1-3) were derived which stably transmit a single intact copy of the vector. In all of the substrains, expression of the neo gene from the internal thymidine kinase (TK) promoter was detected, with two of the substrains expressing the gene in all tissues analysed. In the third substrain, the vector had integrated on the X chromosome and neo expression varied between different tissues. A second series of transgenic mice were obtained with the retroviral vector SAX, in which the human adenosine deaminase cDNA (ADA) is under the control of an internal SV40 promoter. Four substrains (M-SAX 1-4) were analysed; however, no expression of the ADA cDNA was detected. In all mice, no expression was found of the genes under the control of the viral 5' long terminal repeats (LTRs). In the M-TKneo substrains the vector was hypomethylated irrespective of its expression whereas in the M-SAX mice the vector was hypermethylated. These results demonstrate for the first time that the TK promoter can apparently express a gene in all tissues of adult mice and that retroviral vectors with internal promoters may provide an alternative to DNA injection for the efficient expression of genes in transgenic mice.
We have investigated the DNA methylation patterns in genomically imprinted genes of the mouse. Both Igf2 and H19 are associated with clear-cut regions of allele-specific paternal modification in late embryonic and adult tissues. By using a sensitive PCR assay, it was possible to follow the methylation state of individual HpaII sites in these genes through gametogenesis and embryogenesis. Most of these CpG moieties are not differentially modified in the mature gametes and also become totally demethylated in the early embryo in a manner similar to non-imprinted endogenous genes. Thus, the overall allele-specific methylation pattern at these sites must be established later during embryogenesis after the blastula stage. In contrast, sites in an Igf2r gene intron and one CpG residue in the Igf2 upstream region have allele-specific modification patterns which are established either in the gametes or shortly after fertilization and are preserved throughout pre-implantation embryogenesis. These studies suggest that only a few DNA modifications at selective positions in imprinted genes may be candidates for playing a role in the maintenance of parental identity during development.
Villin is an evolutionarily well conserved, Ca2+ regulated actin-binding protein, and a major structural component of the brush border of specialized absorptive cells. Using paraffin sections and an affinity purified polyclonal anti-villin antibody, we have investigated the early expression of villin during mouse embryogenesis. Villin is first detectable at the early post-implantation stage in visceral endodermal cells at the periphery of the egg cylinder. In this extra embryonic layer, the expression of villin increases and then persists until full term gestation. In the embryo, villin first appears in gut anlage during the axial rotation. Using the same methodology, villin expression is also demonstrated in differentiating embryoid bodies from a teratocarcinoma. Both in extra embryonic and embryonic extracts, villin expression is confirmed by immunoblot and Northern blot analysis which reveal, respectively, a single polypeptide of 93 kd and an mRNA of 3.4 kb in length, two well defined parameters for adult mouse villin gene expression. The results presented here show that paraffin sections allow very sensitive and highly resolutive detection of antigens in early embryogenesis. They provide a detailed developmental profile of villin expression and demonstrate the usefulness of villin as a marker for epithelial cells involved in absorptive processes.