Scientific reports

Distinct mechanisms regulate Cdx2 expression in the blastocyst and in trophoblast stem cells.

PMID 27256674


The first intercellular differences during mammalian embryogenesis arise in the blastocyst, producing the inner cell mass and the trophectoderm. The trophectoderm is the first extraembryonic tissue and does not contribute to the embryo proper, its differentiation instead forming tissues that sustain embryonic development. Crucial roles in extraembryonic differentiation have been identified for certain transcription factors, but a comprehensive picture of the regulation of this early specification is still lacking. Here, we investigated whether the regulatory mechanisms involved in Cdx2 expression in the blastocyst are also utilized in the postimplantation embryo. We analyzed an enhancer that is regulated through Hippo and Notch in the blastocyst trophectoderm, unexpectedly finding that it is inactive in the extraembryonic structures at postimplantation stages. Further analysis identified other Cdx2 regulatory elements including a stem-cell specific regulatory sequence and an element that drives reporter expression in the trophectoderm, a subset of cells in the extraembryonic region of the postimplantation embryo and in trophoblast stem cells. The cross-comparison in this study of cis-regulatory elements employed in the blastocyst, stem cell populations and the postimplantation embryo provides new insights into early mammalian development and suggests a two-step mechanism in Cdx2 regulation.