The objective was to study the expression of zonula occludens-2, a tight junction protein, during preimplantation hamster embryonic development, to predict its possible localization, source, and roles in trophectoderm differentiation and blastocyst formation in this species. Comparison of zonula occludens-2 expression pattern between the hamster and mouse preimplantation embryos from the zygote up to the blastocyst stage was also an objective of this study. Zonula occludens-2 localization was noted in nuclei of blastomeres in all stages of hamster and mouse embryonic development. Compared to mice, where zonula occludens-2 was first localized in the interblastomere membrane at the morula stage, hamster embryos had membranous zonula occludens-2 localization from the 2-cell stage onwards. Based on combined results of immunolocalization study in parthenogenic embryos and ovarian and epididymal sections, and quantitative PCR done in oocytes and all developmental stages of preimplantation embryos, perhaps there was a carry-over of zonula occludens-2 proteins or mRNA from the dam to the embryo. Based on these findings, we inferred that maternally derived zonula occludens-2 was involved in nuclear functions, as well as differentiation of blastomeres and blastocoel formation during preimplantation embryonic development in the hamster.
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