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A serum-free and defined medium for the culture of mammalian postimplantation embryos

Drakou, Katerina, Georgiades, Pantelis
Biochemical and biophysical research communications 2015 v.468 pp. 813-819
blood serum, culture media, developmental toxicity, embryo culture, gastrulation, mice, monitoring, toxicity testing
Whole embryo culture (WEC) of postimplantation rodent embryos is widely used for the study of mammalian embryogenesis and developmental toxicity testing. Its major advantage is that it allows direct access to embryos for experimental manipulations and the monitoring of their consequences that would otherwise not be possible or technically difficult to perform in utero. However, a major drawback of mammalian WEC is that the culture media currently in use display batch variations and are undefined, as they contain serum or serum replacements of unknown composition. Moreover, these media possess cell-signalling activities important for embryogenesis. Therefore, reproducibility of mammalian postimplantation WEC results may be affected by batch variation and their interpretation is complicated because the experimenter is unsure whether the embryo response to experimental perturbations is solely due to their action, or modified as a result of influences from undefined substances/signaling activities present in culture media. To alleviate these problems we investigated whether N2B27, a serum-free and defined medium, can support the in vitro development of postimplantation mammalian embryos. We show that N2B27 allows pre-gastrulation mouse embryos isolated at embryonic day 5.5 to develop to advanced gastrulation, reaching the mid- and late primitive streak stages. This is the first demonstration that postimplantation mammalian embryos can develop in vitro in a defined medium in the absence of serum and provides a novel WEC system for studying developmental mechanisms and testing for developmental toxicity during the early postimplantation period.