Int. J. Dev. Biol. 35: 177 - 189 (1991)
© UPV/EHU Press

Development of separated germ layers of rodent embryos on ectopic sites: a reappraisal.

B Levak-Svajger, V Knezevic and A Svajger

Institute of Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Zagreb, Republic of Croatia, Yugoslavia.

ABSTRACT The method of separation of germ layers of rodent embryos by treating the embryonic shields with proteolytic enzymes and by microsurgery with the subsequent transplantation to ectopic sites has helped to gain a more detailed insight into what is going on during gastrulation in mammals. The space under the kidney capsule of adult animals seems to be the most appropriate ectopic site for transplantation of early postimplantation rat embryos or separated germ layers. After transplantation the grafts develop into teratomas whose complex histological structure reflects the initial developmental capacities of the graft. At the pre-primitive streak and the early primitive streak stages the primitive ectoderm differentiates into tissue derivatives of all three definitive germ layers, often in complex organotypic combinations. This is indirect evidence that all cells of the embryonic body originate from the primitive embryonic ectoderm. Halves of the primitive ectoderm obtained by a longitudinal or transverse cut through the egg cylinder give the same result. At the head fold stage the capacity for differentiation of the ectoderm is restricted to ectodermal and mesodermal derivatives. One day before gastrulation the isolated primitive ectoderm is not able to differentiate as renal isograft. The mesoderm isolated at the head fold stage and at later stages when its segmentation occurs, differentiates almost exclusively into the brown adipose tissue. The embryonic endoderm differentiates only in combination with the mesoderm. After transplantation the embryonic ectoderm loses its epithelial organization and breaks up into a mass of mesenchyme-like cells in which epithelial structures subsequently appear and differentiate in a way reminiscent of the reaggregation of cells in mixed cell suspension in vitro.