Int. J. Dev. Biol. 41: 397 - 410 (1997)
© UPV/EHU Press

Development in vitro of Marsupials: a comparative review of species and a timetable of cleavage and early blastocyst stages of development in Monodelphis domestica.

L Selwood, E S Robinson, R A Pedersen and J L Vandeberg

School of Zoology, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

ABSTRACT The development of marsupial oocytes and embryos in vitro is reviewed. Most stages of development have been cultured successfully, usually in a complex medium with added fetal calf serum. Simpler media without added serum have been developed for fertilization and cleavage in vitro. Culture systems have been established for oocyte maturation and fertilization in the grey short-tailed opossum and for cleavage from the zygote to the early expanding unilaminar blastocyst in a number of other marsupials. Survival in vitro of the unilaminar and early bilaminar blastocyst stages is limited in all species examined. In contrast, late bilaminar, trilaminar, embryonic and fetal stages develop at rates approximating those in vivo. More stages have been cultured successfully in Sminthopsis macroura than in any other species. It has been cultured from the late bilaminar blastocyst to within 18 h of birth. Stages of cleavage and unilaminar blastocyst formation of Monodelphis domestica timed by videotaping mating animals, proceeded at similar rates in vivo and in vitro. As in other marsupials, cleavage in this opossum is characterized by a polarized conceptus. This polarity is expressed in the distribution of organelles in the zygote and the localization of secretion of the extracellular matrix material into the cleavage cavity and of the initial cell-zona attachment. Because cell-cell adhesion follows cell-zona adhesion, a unilaminar blastocyst forms without the development of an intervening morula stage.