The obligate embryonic diapause that characterizes gestation in mink engenders a developmental arrest at the blastocyst stage. The characteristics of escape from obligate diapause were investigated in embryos reactivated by treatment of the dams with exogenous prolactin. Protein and DNA synthesis showed marked increases within 72 h after the reinitiation of development, and embryo diameter increased thereafter. Trophoblast cells from embryos at Day 5 after activation proliferated more readily in vitro than trophoblasts from diapause or from Day 9 after activation, while in Day 9 embryos, cells from the inner cell mass (ICM) replicated comparatively more readily in vitro. There was evidence of expression of fibroblast growth factor-4 (FGF4) in both diapause and activated embryos and in ICM, but not the trophoblast. FGF receptor-2 was present in embryos from Day 5 after reactivation in both trophoblast and ICM cell lines. Trophoblast cell lines established from mink embryos proliferated in culture in the presence of FGF4 with a doubling time of 1.4 days, while in its absence, the doubling time was 4.0 days. We conclude that, during reinitiation of embryogenesis in the mink after diapause, embryo growth is characterized by gradual increases in protein synthesis, accompanied by mitosis of the trophoblast and ICM. There appears to be a pattern of differential proliferation between cells derived from these embryonic compartments, with the trophoblast phase of replication occurring mainly in the early reactivation phase, while the ICM proliferates more rapidly nearer to the time of implantation.
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