The morula-stage embryo is transformed into a blastocyst composed of epiblast, hypoblast, and trophectoderm (TE) through mechanisms that, in the mouse, involve the Hippo signaling and mitogen-activated kinase (MAPK) pathways. Using the cow as an additional model, we tested the hypotheses that TE and hypoblast differentiation were regulated by the Hippo pathway regulators, yes-associated protein 1 (YAP1) and angiomotin (AMOT), and MAPK kinase 1/2 (MAPK1/2). The presence of YAP1 and CDX2 in the nucleus and cytoplasm of MII oocytes and embryos was evaluated by immunofluorescence labeling. For both molecules, localization changed from cytoplasmic to nuclear as development advanced. Inhibition of YAP1 activity, either by verteporfin or a YAP1 targeting GapmeR, reduced the percent of zygotes that became blastocysts, the proportion of blastocysts that hatched and numbers of CDX2+ cells in blastocysts. Moreover, the YAP1-targeting GapmeR altered expression of 15 of 91 genes examined in the day 7.5 blastocyst. Treatment of embryos with an AMOT targeting GapmeR did not affect blastocyst development or hatching but altered expression of 16 of 91 genes examined at day 7.5 and reduced the number of CDX2+ nuclei and YAP1+ nuclei in blastocysts at day 8.5 of development. Inhibition of MAPK1/2 with PD0325901 did not affect blastocyst development but increased the number of epiblast cells. Results indicate a role for YAP1 and AMOT in function of TE in the bovine blastocyst. YAP1 can also affect function of the epiblast and hypoblast, and MAPK signaling is important for inner cell mass differentiation by reducing epiblast numbers.
The cell differentiation regulators, AMOT, MAP2K1/2, and YAP1, are involved in differentiation of the bovine blastocyst.