The H19 gene is imprinted with preferential expression from the maternal allele. The putative imprinting control region for this locus is hypermethylated on the repressed paternal allele. Although maternal-specific expression of H19 is observed in mouse blastocysts that develop in vivo, biallelic expression has been documented in embryos and embryonic stem cells experimentally manipulated by in vitro culture conditions. In this study the effect of culture on imprinted H19 expression and methylation was determined. After culture of 2-cell embryos to the blastocyst stage in Whitten's medium, the normally silent paternal H19 allele was aberrantly expressed, whereas little paternal expression was observed following culture in KSOM containing amino acids (KSOM+AA). Analysis of the methylation status of a CpG dinucleotide located in the upstream imprinting control region revealed a loss in methylation in embryos cultured in Whitten's medium but not in embryos cultured in KSOM+AA. Thus, H19 expression and methylation were adversely affected by culture in Whitten's medium, while the response of H19 to culture in KSOM+AA approximated more closely the in vivo situation. It is unlikely that biallelic expression of H19 following culture in Whitten's medium is a generalized effect of lower methylation levels, since the amount of DNA methyltransferase activity and the spatial distribution of Dnmt1 protein were similar in in vivo-derived and cultured embryos. Moreover, imprinted expression of Snrpn was maintained following culture in either medium, indicating that not all imprinted genes are under the same stringent imprinting controls. The finding that culture conditions can dramatically, but selectively, affect the expression of imprinted genes provides a model system for further study of the linkage between DNA methylation and gene expression.
The production of cloned animals is, at present, an inefficient process. This study focused on the fetal losses that occur between Days 30â90 of gestation. Fetal and placental characteristics were studied from Days 30â90 of gestation using transrectal ultrasonography, maternal pregnancy specific protein b (PSPb) levels, and postslaughter collection of fetal tissue. Pregnancy rates at Day 30 were similar for recipient cows carrying nuclear transfer (NT) and control embryos (45% [54/120] vs. 58% [11/19]), although multiple NT embryos were often transferred into recipients. From Days 30â90, 82% of NT fetuses died, whereas all control pregnancies remained viable. Crown-rump (CR) length was less in those fetuses that were destined to die before Day 90, but no significant difference was found between the CR lengths of NT and control fetuses that survived to Day 90. Maternal PSPb levels at Days 30 and 50 of gestation were not predictive of fetal survival to Day 90. The placentas of six cloned and four control (in vivo or in vitro fertilized) bovine pregnancies were compared between Days 35 and 60 of gestation. Two cloned placentas showed rudimentary development, as indicated by flat, cuboidal trophoblastic epithelium and reduced vascularization, whereas two others possessed a reduced number of barely discernable cotyledonary areas. The remaining two cloned placentas were similar to the controls, although one contained hemorrhagic cotyledons. Poor viability of cloned fetuses during Days 35â60 was associated with either rudimentary or marginal chorioallantoic development. Our findings suggest that future research should focus on factors that promote placental and vascular growth and on fetomaternal interactions that promote placental attachment and villous formation.
The strictly maternal inheritance of mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in mammals is a developmental paradox promoted by an unknown mechanism responsible for the destruction of the sperm mitochondria shortly after fertilization. We have recently reported that the sperm mitochondria are ubiquitinated inside the oocyte cytoplasm and later subjected to proteolysis during preimplantation development (P. Sutovsky et al., Nature 1999; 402:371â372). Here, we provide further evidence for this process by showing that the proteolytic destruction of bull sperm mitochondria inside cow egg cytoplasm depends upon the activity of the universal proteolytic marker, ubiquitin, and the lysosomal apparatus of the egg. Binding of ubiquitin to sperm mitochondria was visualized by monospecific antibodies throughout pronuclear development and during the first embryonic divisions. The recognition and disposal of the ubiquitinated sperm mitochondria was prevented by the microinjection of anti-ubiquitin antibodies and by the treatment of the fertilized zygotes with lysosomotropic agent ammonium chloride. The postfecundal ubiquitination of sperm mitochondria and their destruction was not seen in the hybrid embryos created using cow eggs and sperm of wild cattle, gaur, thus supporting the hypothesis that sperm mitochondrion destruction is species specific. The initial ligation of ubiquitin molecules to sperm mitochondrial membrane proteins, one of which could be prohibitin, occurs during spermatogenesis. Even though the ubiquitin cross-reactivity was transiently lost from the sperm mitochondria during epididymal passage, likely as a result of disulfide bond cross-linking, it was restored and amplified after fertilization. Ubiquitination therefore may represent a mechanism for the elimination of paternal mitochondria during fertilization. Our data have important implications for anthropology, treatment of mitochondrial disorders, and for the new methods of assisted procreation, such as cloning, oocyte cytoplasm donation, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
Abstract POU transcription factors are involved in transcriptional regulation during early embryonic development and cell differentiation. Oct-4, a member of this family, has been shown to be under strict regulation during murine development. The expression of Oct-4 correlates with the undifferentiated cell phenotype of the mouse preimplantation embryo. In this study, expression of a gene construct consisting of selected parts of the region upstream from the murine Oct-4 gene as promoter/enhancer, enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) as reporter and the five exons of the murine Oct-4 gene (GOF18-ΔPE EGFP) was evaluated in murine, porcine, and bovine preimplantation embryos. For comparison, expression of the endogenous Oct-4 gene was also analyzed in all three species by immunocytochemistry. The transgene construct was microinjected into zygotes cultured in vitro to various developmental stages. The EGFP fluorescence was visualized in developing embryos by excitation with blue light at different days ...
Abstract Testes from adult and prepubertal mice lacking the Desert hedgehog (Dhh) gene were examined in order to describe further the role of Dhh in spermatogenesis because, in a previous report, Dhh-null male mice were shown to be sterile. Dhh is a signaling molecule expressed by Sertoli cells. Its receptor, patched (Ptc), has been previously localized to Leydig cells and is herein described as being localized also to peritubular cells. Two phenotypes of the mice were observed: masculinized (7.5% of Dhh-null males) and feminized (92.5%), both of which displayed abnormal peritubular tissue and severely restricted spermatogenesis. Testes from adult feminized animals lacked adult-type Leydig cells and displayed numerous undifferentiated fibroblastic cells in the interstitium that produced abundant collagen. The basal lamina, normally present between the myoid cells and Sertoli cells, was focally absent. We speculate that the abnormal basal lamina contributed to other characteristics, such as extracordal gon...
Successful cryopreservation of mammalian oocytes would provide a steady source of materials for nuclear transfer and in vitro embryo production. Our goal was to develop an effective vitrification protocol to cryopreserve bovine oocytes for research and practice of parthenogenetic activation, in vitro fertilization, and nuclear transfer. Bovine oocytes matured in vitro were placed in 4% ethylene glycol (EG) in TCM 199 plus 20% fetal bovine serum (FBS) at 39Â°C for 12â15 min, and then transferred to a vitrification solution (35% EG, 5% polyvinyl-pyrrolidone, 0.4 M trehalose in TCM 199 and 20% FBS). Oocytes were vitrified in microdrops on a precooled (â150Â°C) metal surface (solid-surface vitrification). The vitrified microdrops were stored in liquid nitrogen and were either immediately thawed or were thawed after storage for 2â3 wk. Surviving oocytes were subjected to 1) parthenogenetic activation, 2) in vitro fertilization, or 3) nuclear transfer with cultured adult fibroblast cells. Treated oocytes were cultured in KSOM containing BSA or FBS for 9 to 10 days. Embryo development rates were recorded daily and morphologically high-quality blastocysts were cryopreserved for nuclear transfer-derived embryos at Day 7 or Day 8 of culture. Immediate survival of vitrified/thawed oocytes varied between 77% and 86%. Cleavage and blastocyst development rates of vitrified oocytes following in vitro fertilization or activation were lower than those of the controls. For nuclear transfer, however, vitrified oocytes supported embryonic development as equally well as fresh oocytes.
Culture of preantral follicles has important biotechnological implications through its potential to produce large quantities of oocytes for embryo production and transfer. A long-term culture system for bovine preantral follicles is described. Bovine preantral follicles (166 Â± 2.15 Î¼m), surrounded by theca cells, were isolated from ovarian cortical slices. Follicles were cultured under conditions known to maintain granulosa cell viability in vitro. The effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF), insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, FSH, and coculture with bovine granulosa cells on preantral follicle growth were analyzed. Follicle and oocyte diameter increased significantly ( P < 0.05) with time in culture. FSH, IGF-I, and EGF stimulated ( P < 0.05) follicle growth rate but had no effect on oocyte growth. Coculture with granulosa cells inhibited FSH/IGF-I-stimulated growth. Most follicles maintained their morphology throughout culture, with the presence of a thecal layer and basement membrane surrounding the granulosa cells. Antrum formation, confirmed by confocal microscopy, occurred between Days 10 and 28 of culture. The probability of follicles reaching antrum development was 0.19 for control follicles. The addition of growth factors or FSH increased ( P < 0.05) the probability of antrum development to 0.55. Follicular growth appeared to be halted by slower growth of the basement membrane, as growing follicles occasionally burst the basement membrane, extruding their granulosa cells. In conclusion, a preantral follicle culture system in which follicle morphology can be maintained for up to 28 days has been developed. In this system, FSH, EGF, and IGF-I stimulated follicle growth and enhanced antrum formation. This culture system may provide a valuable approach for studying the regulation of early follicular development and for production of oocytes for nuclear/embryo transfer, but further work is required.
The low efficiency of animal production using somatic cell nuclear transfer procedures is considered to be the result of an incomplete reprogramming of the donor somatic cell nucleus, which leads to a lack of, or abnormal expression of developmentally important genes. However, our current understanding of the process of somatic cell nuclear reprogramming and its effect on gene expression is limited. In this study, we compare the transcription patterns of six developmentally important genes, Oct4, IL6, FGF2, FGF4, FGFr2, and gp130 in single in vitro fertilized (IVF) and nuclear transfer embryos reconstructed using granulosa cells for the donor nuclei. Similar patterns of transcription were detected for Oct4, FGF2, and gp130 in IVF and nuclear transfer embryos during the preimplantation stages of development. However, a number of morula- and blastocyst-stage embryos derived from nuclear transfer procedures showed abnormal transcription of IL6, FGF4, and FGFr2. Previous studies have demonstrated that these three genes play an important role in implantation, early postimplantation development, or both in the mouse. Therefore, the aberrant transcription patterns detected in nuclear transfer embryos may lead to a reduction in embryo viability.
The present study was conducted to examine the protective effect of cumulus cells on oocyte damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS), generated by the hypoxanthine-xanthine oxidase (XOD) system, during in vitro maturation of porcine oocytes. Cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) and cumulus-denuded oocytes (DOs) were cultured for 44 h in NCSU37 supplemented with cysteine, gonadotropins, 10% porcine follicular fluid, and hypoxanthine in the presence or absence of XOD. DNA cleavage and damage were analyzed using the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling (TUNEL) method and single cell microgel electrophoresis (comet) assay, respectively, and caspase-3 activity and glutathione (GSH) content were measured in each experimental group. Exposure of DOs to ROS resulted in meiotic arrest and the increase of degenerated oocytes. These degenerated DOs underwent apoptosis, as shown by the TUNEL-positive reaction within their germinal vesicles and the activation of caspase-3. The length of DNA migration in DOs treated with XOD was significantly longer than that of untreated DOs ( P < 0.05). However, irreparable cell damage caused by ROS was not observed in COCs, and no difference was observed in the caspase-3 activity of both COCs treated with and without XOD. A significantly ( P < 0.05) high level of GSH was found in COCs after 44 h of culture, compared with that of oocytes freshly isolated from their follicles, whereas GSH content in DOs markedly decreased after treatment with or without XOD. These findings suggest that cumulus cells have a critical role in protecting oocytes against oxidative stress-induced apoptosis through the enhancement of GSH content in oocytes.
In addition to pituitary gonadotropins and paracrine factors, ovarian follicle development is also modulated by oocyte factors capable of stimulating granulosa cell proliferation but suppressing their differentiation. The nature of these oocyte factors is unclear. Because growth differentiation factor-9 (GDF-9) enhanced preantral follicle growth and was detected in the oocytes of early antral and preovulatory follicles, we hypothesized that this oocyte hormone could regulate the proliferation and differentiation of granulosa cells from these advanced follicles. Treatment with recombinant GDF-9, but not FSH, stimulated thymidine incorporation into cultured granulosa cells from both early antral and preovulatory follicles, accompanied by increases in granulosa cell number. Although GDF-9 treatment alone stimulated basal steroidogenesis in granulosa cells, cotreatment with GDF-9 suppressed FSH-stimulated progesterone and estradiol production. In addition, GDF-9 cotreatment attentuated FSH-induced LH receptor formation. The inhibitory effects of GDF-9 on FSH-induced granulosa cell differentiation were accompanied by decreases in the FSH-induced cAMP production. These data suggested that GDF-9 is a proliferation factor for granulosa cells from early antral and preovulatory follicles but suppresses FSH-induced differentiation of the same cells. Thus, oocyte-derived GDF-9 could account, at least partially, for the oocyte factor(s) previously reported to control cumulus and granulosa cell differentiation.
Although it is generally accepted that relatively high efficiencies of somatic cell cloning in mammals can be achieved by using donor cells from the female reproductive system (e.g., cumulus/granulosa, oviduct, and mammary gland cells), there is little information on the possibility of using male-specific somatic cells as donor cells. In this study we injected the nucleus of immature mouse Sertoli cells isolated from the testes of newborn (Days 3â10) males into enucleated mature oocytes in order to examine the ability of their nuclei to support embryonic development. After activation of the oocytes that had received the freshly recovered immature Sertoli cells, some developed into the morula/blastocyst stage, depending on the age of the donor cells (22.0â37.4%). When transferred into pseudopregnant females, 7 (3.3%, 7 of 215) developed into normal pups at term. Nuclear transfer of immature Sertoli cells after 1 wk in culture also produced normal pups after embryo transfer (3.1%, 2 of 65). Even after cryopreservation in a conventional cryoprotectant solution, their ability as donor cells was maintained, as demonstrated by the birth of cloned young (6.7%, 7 of 105). Immature Sertoli cells transfected with green fluorescent protein gene also supported embryo development into morulae/blastocysts, which showed specific fluorescence. This study demonstrates that immature Sertoli cells, male-specific somatic cells, are potential donors for somatic cell cloning.
Histometrical evaluation of the testis was performed in 36 Piau pigs from birth to 16 mo of age to investigate Sertoli cell, Leydig cell, and germ cell proliferation. In addition, blood samples were taken in seven animals from 1 wk of age to adulthood to measure plasma levels of FSH and testosterone. Sertoli cell proliferation in pigs shows two distinct phases. The first occurs between birth and 1 mo of age, when the number of Sertoli cells per testis increases approximately sixfold. The second occurs between 3 and 4 mo of age, or just before puberty, which occurs between 4 to 5 mo of age, when Sertoli cells almost double their numbers per testis. The periods of Sertoli cell proliferation were concomitant with high FSH plasma levels and prominent elongation in the length of seminiferous cord/tubule per testis. Leydig cell volume increased markedly from birth to 1 mo of age and just before puberty. In general, during the first 5 mo after birth, Leydig cell volume growth showed a similar pattern as that observed for testosterone plasma levels. Also, the proliferation of Leydig cells per testis before puberty showed a pattern similar to that observed for Sertoli cells. However, Leydig cell number per testis increased up to 16 mo of age. Substantial changes in Leydig cell size were also observed after the pubertal period. From birth to 4 mo of age, germ cells proliferated continuously, increasing their number approximately two- to fourfold at each monthly interval. A dramatic increase in germ cells per cross-section of seminiferous tubule was observed from 4 to 5 mo of age; their number per tubule cross-section stabilized after 8 mo. To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study reporting the pattern of Sertoli cell, germ cell, and Leydig cell proliferative activity in pigs from birth to adulthood and the first study to correlate these events with plasma levels of FSH and testosterone.
To determine the physiological significance of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) in the regulation of luteolytic prostaglandin (PC) F-2 alpha release by the bovine endometrium, the effect of TNF-alpha on PGF(2 alpha) output by the endometrial tissues in vitro was investigated and compared with the effect of oxytocin (OT), Furthermore, the presence of specific receptors for TNF alpha in the bovine endometrium during the estrous cycle was determined. Endometrial slices (20-30 mg) taken from six stages of the estrous cycle (estrus: Day 0; early I: Days 2-3; early II: Days 5-6; mid-: Days 8-12; late: Days 15-17; and follicular: Days 19-21), as determined by macroscopic examination of the ovaries and uterus, were exposed to TNF alpha (0.06-6 nM) and/or OT (100 nM), OT stimulated PGF(2 alpha) output at the follicular stage and at estrus (P < 0.001), but not at the late luteal stage. On the other hand, the stimulatory effects of TNF alpha on PGF(2 alpha) output were observed not only at the follicular stage but also at the late luteal stage (P < 0.001), When the endometrial tissues at late luteal stage were simultaneously exposed to TNF alpha (0.6 nM) and OT (100 nM), the stimulatory effect on PGF(2 alpha) output was higher than the effect of TNF alpha or OT alone (P < 0.05). Specific binding of TNF alpha to the bovine endometrial membranes was observed throughout the estrous cycle. The concentration of TNF-alpha receptor at the early I luteal stage was less than the concentrations at other luteal stages (P < 0.01). The dissociation constant (K-d) values of the endometrial membranes were constant during the estrous cycle. The overall results lead us to hypothesize that TNF alpha may be a trigger for the output of PGF(2 alpha) by the endometrium at the initiation of luteolysis in cattle.
The natural killer (NK) cells that are present in the uterine mucosa (decidua) during early pregnancy have a distinctive phenotype, CD56 bright CD16 â . These cells have previously been shown to proliferate and be activated by interleukin (IL)-2. However, IL-2 is absent from the decidua and placenta, and we have therefore investigated whether IL-15 is present in the uterus and can act on decidual NK cells. Both IL-15 mRNA and protein were found in a variety of cells but particularly in decidual macrophages. IL-15 induced a proliferative response in decidual NK cells that was blocked by anti-IL-15 and was augmented by stem cell factor. The cytolytic activity of decidual NK cells against K562 was augmented. Interestingly, in contrast to IL-2, although activation with IL-15 resulted in some killing of JEG-3 choriocarcinoma cells, normal trophoblast cells remained resistant to lysis. These findings suggest that IL-15 is a candidate cytokine responsible for NK cell proliferation in vivo in the progesterone-dominated secretory endometrium and early decidua.
This study was an investigation of metabolism during bovine preimplantation development from the oocyte up to the hatched blastocyst derived in vitro or in vivo. Metabolism was determined by estimating the consumption of radiolabeled glucose, pyruvate, or lactate during a 4-h incubation period in a closed noninvasive system with NaOH as trap for the continuous collection of CO 2 . The postincubation medium was analyzed for the presence of lactate. Embryonic metabolism from the matured oocyte to the 12-cell stage was more or less constant, with pyruvate being the preferred substrate. The first marked increase in oxidation of glucose occurred between the 12- and 16-cell stage. Compaction of morula and blastocyst expansion was accompanied by significant increases in oxidation of all three energy substrates. The incorporation of glucose increased steadily 15-fold from the 1-cell to the blastocyst stage. In general, the pattern of metabolism was similar between the embryos derived in vitro and in vivo but with some distinct differences. The most apparent feature of glucose metabolism by in vitro-produced embryos was a 2-fold higher rate of aerobic glycolysis as compared to that in their in vivo counterparts. In vitro-matured oocytes produced measurable amounts of lactate, whereas in vivo-matured oocytes exhibited a significantly lower metabolic activity and did not produce any lactate. When in vivo-collected embryos were preexposed to culture conditions, lactate production increased significantly and at the hatched blastocyst stage matched that of their in vitro counterparts. In vitro-produced embryos up to the 8-cell stage oxidized significantly higher amounts of lactate and had a lower ratio of pyruvate-to-lactate oxidation than the in vivo-obtained embryos. The results of this study show that under our culture conditions, important differences exist at the biochemical level between bovine embryos produced in vitro and those generated in vivo that may well affect the developmental capacity.
The action of steroid hormones is primarily mediated via a process that involves hormone binding to specific receptors in target cells, which leads to transcriptional activation of steroid-responsive genes and, subsequently, to a modification of cellular responses. The aim of the present study was to obtain information about the dynamics of the two types of estrogen receptors (ERs), alpha and beta, by comparing their concentration and distribution in the reproductive tract of the rat during the estrous cycle. Twenty-four 55- to 60-day-old female Sprague-Dawley rats were used. The stage of estrous cycle was determined by vaginal smear, ER alpha was the dominating subtype in uterus, oviduct, and cervix/vagina, with the distribution varying in stroma and epithelium during the estrous cycle. A low level of ER alpha mRNA was observed in ovarian stromal cells, with some scattered positive cells found among granulosa cells. ER beta expression was observed in the different compartments of uterus and cervix/vagina, but cyclic variation during the estrous cycle was less evident than that of ER alpha, Only a few scattered cells that contained ER beta mRNA were observed in oviduct, ER beta mRNA was highly expressed in granulosa cells of developing follicles, with a weaker hybridization signal in new corpora lutea, Immunohistochemistry showed that protein levels of ER alpha and ER beta have distinct specificity for tissues and cell types, similar to their respective levels of mRNA, as assessed by in situ hybridization, The precise physiological function and importance of ER beta is still unclear, The relative physiological and pathological function of each ER subtype in the female reproductive tract remains to be further evaluated.
The pregnancy-associated glycoproteins (PAG) constitute a large family of recently duplicated genes. They show structural resemblance to pepsin and related aspartic proteinases. A total of 21 bovine (bo) PAG and 9 ovine (ov) PAG cDNA have been identified. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the PAG are divided into two main groupings that accurately reflect their tissue expression, as determined by in situ hybridization. In the first pattern, represented by ovPAG-2 and boPAG-2, -8, -10, and -11 (where the numbering is arbitrary and reflects order of discovery within species), expression occurred throughout the outer epithelial layer of the placenta (trophectoderm). The second pattern was predominant localization to binucleate cells. Ribonuclease protection assays, which allow discrimination between closely related transcripts, have shown that the expression of PAG varies in a temporal manner over pregnancy. Of those bovine PAG expressed predominantly in binucleate cells, boPAG-1, -6, and -7 are expressed weakly, if at all, by Day 25 placenta, but are present at the middle and end of pregnancy. Others, such as boPAG-4, -5, and -9, are expressed at Day 25 and at earlier stages. Although not among the earliest PAG produced by the trophoblast, boPAG-1 has been used for pregnancy diagnosis, particularly in dairy cows, where there is a major need for a sensitive method capable of detecting pregnancy within 1 mo of conception. It seems likely that some of the newly discovered PAG will be better candidates than PAG-1 for pregnancy diagnosis.
The human DAZ gene family is expressed in germ cells and consists of a cluster of nearly identical DAZ ( deleted in azoospermia ) genes on the Y chromosome and an autosomal homolog, DAZL ( DAZ -like). Only the autosomal gene is found in mice. Y-chromosome deletions that encompass the DAZ genes are a common cause of spermatogenic failure in men, and autosomal homologs of DAZ are essential for testicular germ cell development in mice and Drosophila. Previous studies have reported that mouse DAZL protein is strictly cytoplasmic and that human DAZ protein is restricted to postmeiotic cells. By contrast, we report here that human DAZ and human and mouse DAZL proteins are present in both the nuclei and cytoplasm of fetal gonocytes and in spermatogonial nuclei. The proteins relocate to the cytoplasm during male meiosis. Further observations using human tissues indicate that, unlike DAZ, human DAZL protein persists in spermatids and even spermatozoa. These results, combined with findings in diverse species, suggest that DAZ family proteins function in multiple cellular compartments at multiple points in male germ cell development. They may act during meiosis and much earlier, when spermatogonial stem cell populations are established.
Development of outbred CF1 mouse zygotes in vitro was studied in a chemically defined, protein-free medium both with and without amino acids. The addition of amino acids to protein-free potassium simplex optimized medium (KSOM) had little effect on the proportion of embryos that developed at least to the zona-enclosed blastocyst stage. In contrast, amino acids stimulated very significantly, in a dilution-dependent way, the proportion of blastocysts that at least partially or completely hatched. Amino acids also stimulated cell proliferation in both the trophectoderm and inner cell mass (ICM) cells, at rates that favored proliferation of cells in the ICM; had no effect on the incidence of cell death (oncosis or apoptosis); and improved development of the basement membranes, which form on the blastocoelic surface of the trophectoderm and between the primitive endoderm and the primitive ectoderm. Thus, KSOM, supplemented with amino acids but containing no protein supplements, supports development of a newly fertilized ovum to the late blastocyst stage, in which its normal, three-dimensional structure is preserved and in which the ICM has been partitioned into the primitive ectoderm and primitive endoderm.