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Partnership between embryonic and extra-embryonic Tissues: the role of calcium signalling

Supervisor: Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

During implantation, the mouse and human pre-implantation embryo transforms into the post-implantation embryo of totally different architecture and developmental potential. The morphogenetic events responsible for this re-modelling are largely unknown as they take place while the embryo implants into maternal tissues, preventing direct observation and manipulation.

Recently a protocol for in vitro culturing (IVC) embryos to post-implantation stages was developed in Zernicka-Goetz lab allowing the live-monitoring of peri-implantation morphogenesis for the first time. This revealed that during peri-implantation stage the epiblast, which is the pluripotent group of stem cells that will give rise to the embryo proper, is surrounded by two extra-embryonic tissues that signal its morphogenesis. Thus, although extra-embryonic tissues do not contribute to the embryo proper, they are indispensable for embryonic development and development of the first major body axis, the anterior-posterior axis. Using the IVC system developed in our lab, this project will aim to uncover the morphogenetic events and interactions between embryonic and extra-embryonic tissues during the peri-implantation stages.

Intracellular calcium has been identified as a key factor regulating morphogenetic events in different organisms and tissues. Due to the linkage of calcium with morphogenetic events, we hypothesize that calcium signaling is involved in this pre- to post-implantation transition, as this is a morphometrically active period. Using transgenic mice expressing a protein coded calcium indicator (GCAMP) and high resolution live imaging, this project will also aim to monitor intracellular calcium dynamics and assess the role of calcium signaling during morphogenesis.

Relevant references

Bedzhov I, Zernicka-Goetz M (2014). Self-organizing properties of mouse pluripotent cells initiate morphogenesis upon implantation. Cell 156: 1032-1044.

Richardson L, Torres-Padilla ME, Zernicka-Goetz M (2006) Regionalised signalling within the extraembryonic ectoderm regulates anterior visceral endoderm positioning in the mouse embryo. Mechanisms of Development 123: 288-296.

Markova O, Lenne PF (2012) Calcium signaling in developing embryos: focus on the regulation of cell shape changes and collective movements. Seminars in cell & developmental biology 23: 298-307.

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