Platelet/Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 (PECAM-1 or CD31) is thought to be a vascular-specific protein, but its function has not been clearly defined. Here, we demonstrate by using confocal immunofluorescence microscopy that PECAM-1 is first detected in the mouse blastocyst, which contains no vascular cells, and its expression is restricted to the pluripotent inner cell mass (ICM) cells. Expression is localized to cell-cell borders of the ICM and is detected at the very first signs of blastocoel formation. Consistent with these observations is that embryonic transcripts of PECAM-1 mRNA, as detected by RT-PCR, greatly increase during the morula-to-blastocyst transition and seven of the eight known alternatively spliced isoforms of PECAM-1 are expressed in the blastocyst. The synthesis of PECAM-1 is independent of compaction, cytokinesis, and DNA replication, as it is detected in embryos that are chronologically at the blastocyst stage following culture of 8-cell embryos in Ca2+-free medium, or medium containing cytochalasin D or aphidicolin, respectively. By the late blastocyst stage, PECAM-1 expression is restricted to the pluripotent epiblast, at which point it has a mutually exclusive expression pattern to that of type IV collagen, a basement membrane marker. The reduction in PECAM-1 transcripts in retinoic acid-induced differentiation of F9 teratocarcinoma cells, a model of epiblast-to-primitive endoderm differentiation, confirmed the epiblast-specific expression of PECAM-1. By the egg cylinder stage of development, at which point the epiblast is no longer pluripotent, PECAM-1 is not detected. This ICM-specific pattern of expression suggests a novel developmental role of PECAM-1 that is independent of its function in vascular ontogeny.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.