Tight junctions (TJ) are critical for blastocoel formation in mammalian embryos. The present study aimed to examine the role of tight junctions in the differentiation of the trophectoderm (TE), and in the pluripotency of blastomeres, as well as in the formation and integrity of the blastocoel. We examined the effect of occludin antibody on blastocoel formation, blastocyst permeability, and expression of H19 and Oct-4, markers of TE differentiation and blastomere pluripotency, respectively. Eight-cell mouse embryos and morulae were cultured in the presence or absence of occludin antibody for 31 h. Occludin antibody inhibited blastocoel formation and increased permeability of the TE of nascent and expanding blastocysts to FITC-dextran (4 kDa), a permeability tracer. At the same time Oct-4 expression increased while expression of H19 became barely detectable. These observations indicate that occludin is involved in establishing the blastocoel, as well as in maintaining its impermeability, and that the development of tight junction is critical for TE formation in mouse embryos.
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