Characterization of the pluripotent cell populations within the porcine embryo is essential for understanding pluripotency and self-renewal regulation in the inner cell mass (ICM) and epiblast. In this study, we perform detailed ultrastructural and molecular characterization of the developing pluripotent cell population as it develops from the ICM to the late epiblast. The ultrastructural observations revealed that the outer cells of the ICM have a high nuclear:cytoplasmic ratio but are transcriptionally inactive and contain mitochondria with few cristae. In contrast, the epiblast cells have a reduced nuclear:cytoplasmic ratio, are more transcriptionally active, and contain abundant cellular organelles. This study also revealed cavitation and potential unfolding of the epiblast. As the ICM forms the epiblast, SSEA1 is lost and VIMENTIN is lost and re-expressed. The D6 blastocyst expressed high levels of STELLA, TERF1, and GDF3, and the epiblast expressed epithelial markers, MUC1 and E-CADHERIN, and the pluripotency markers, DNMT3B and CRIPTO.
Developmental Dynamics, 2010, Vol 239, Issue 11, p. 2911-20