The roles of FGF and MAP kinase signaling in the segregation of the epiblast and hypoblast cell lineages in bovine and human embryos

E.W. Kuijk, L.T. van Tol, H. te Velde, R. Wubbolts, M. Welling, N. Geijsen, B.A. Roelen

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

194 Citations (Scopus)


At the blastocyst stage of mammalian pre-implantation development, three distinct cell lineages have formed: trophectoderm, hypoblast (primitive endoderm) and epiblast. The inability to derive embryonic stem (ES) cell lines in a variety of species suggests divergence between species in the cell signaling pathways involved in early lineage specification. In mouse, segregation of the primitive endoderm lineage from the pluripotent epiblast lineage depends on FGF/MAP kinase signaling, but it is unknown whether this is conserved between species. Here we examined segregation of the hypoblast and epiblast lineages in bovine and human embryos through modulation of FGF/MAP kinase signaling pathways in cultured embryos. Bovine embryos stimulated with FGF4 and heparin form inner cell masses (ICMs) composed entirely of hypoblast cells and no epiblast cells. Inhibition of MEK in bovine embryos results in ICMs with increased epiblast precursors and decreased hypoblast precursors. The hypoblast precursor population was not fully ablated upon MEK inhibition, indicating that other factors are involved in hypoblast differentiation. Surprisingly, inhibition of FGF signaling upstream of MEK had no effects on epiblast and hypoblast precursor numbers in bovine development, suggesting that GATA6 expression is not dependent on FGF signaling. By contrast, in human embryos, inhibition of MEK did not significantly alter epiblast or hypoblast precursor numbers despite the ability of the MEK inhibitor to potently inhibit ERK phosphorylation in human ES cells. These findings demonstrate intrinsic differences in early mammalian development in the role of the FGF/MAP kinase signaling pathways in governing hypoblast versus epiblast lineage choices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-882
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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