The European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) was the first mammal in which embryonic diapause has been described. While diapause is characterized by a complete developmental arrest in some species, roe deer blastocysts show a very slow, yet continuous growth. To date, it is neither known whether this growth is accompanied by developmental progression nor whether it is uniform in both, the trophectoderm (TE) and the inner cell mass (ICM). We collected roe deer blastocysts during the regular hunting season from September 2018 to January 2019, and quantified the fraction of cells expressing the proliferation marker Ki67 by immunofluorescence and light-sheet microscopy. We found that the cell number increased from around 300 cells in September to over 20'000 cells per blastocyst in December before elongation occured. Concurrently, we observed considerable morphological changes, i.e. cavity formation and transition to a disk-like shape of the inner cell mass. During diapause, less than 10% of all cells displayed positive Ki67 staining. Strikingly, the relative increase in cell number was lower in the ICM compared to the TE, whereas the fraction of Ki67 positive cells appeared to be lower in the TE than in the ICM. Our findings thus confirm that roe deer blastocysts display developmental progression in the course of diapause. We hypothesize that while the overall duration of the cell cycle is longer in the ICM than in the TE, the fractional distribution of cell cycle phases differs, with TE cells having a longer G1 phase than cells of the ICM.
Keywords: Diapause, Embryo, Development, Proliferation, Differentiation
© Third International Symposium on Embryonic Diapause