Expression of connexin31 and connexin43 genes in early rat embryos

B Reuss, P Hellmann, O Traub, A Butterweck, E Winterhager
Developmental Genetics 1997, 21 (1): 82-90
Gap junctions have been reported to play a pivotal role in coordinating embryonic development. Here we report the temporal and spatial pattern of connexin31 that has been found to be coexpressed with connexin43 in preimplantation rat embryos. Connexin31 and connexin43 transcripts are abundant in the zygote and degraded in the two- and four-cell stage to low levels for connexin31 and to undetectable ones for connexin43. The uncompacted eight-cell stage lacks the transcripts of both connexins. Reexpression of connexin43 and connexin31 mRNA is found from the compacted eight-cell stage onward. The connexin31 antigen, however, is already detected intracellularly at the uncompacted eight-cell stage. At the blastocyst stage, both connexins are coexpressed in the trophectoderm as well as in the inner cell mass. After implantation, compartmentalization of both connexins is observed. Connexin31 is now expressed exclusively by the cells of the ectoplacental cone and extraembryonic ectoderm, whereas connexin43 is restricted to the cells of the embryo proper. This compartmentalization in connexin expression between the derivatives of the inner cell mass and the trophectoderm may maintain the different developmental programs. THus, connexin31 seems not to be related to the first step in trophoblast lineage development and could serve as a compensatory channel during preimplantation development.

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