Growth factor expression and function in the human and mouse preimplantation embryo


    There is increasing evidence that even before implantation, human development is regulated by embryonically and maternally derived growth factors. Studies in other mammalian species have shown that growth factors and their receptors are expressed by the preimplantation embryo and the reproductive tract. Furthermore, a number of growth factors have been shown to affect rate of embryo development, the proportion of embryos developing to the blastocyst stage, blastocyst cell number, metabolism and apoptosis. Growth factor ligands and receptors are also expressed in human embryos and the maternal reproductive tract, and supplementation of culture medium with exogenous growth factors affects cell fate, development and metabolism of human embryos in vitro. Autocrine, paracrine and endocrine pathways that may operate within the embryo and between the embryo and the reproductive tract before implantation are proposed.

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