The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 46: 449 - 458 (2002)

Vol 46, Issue 4

Special Issue: Developmental Biology in Australia and New Zealand

Embryonic stem cell differentiation and the analysis of mammalian development

Published: 30 November -0001

Stephen J Rodda, Steven J Kavanagh, Joy Rathjen and Peter D Rathjen

Department of Molecular Biosciences and ARC Special Research Centre for the Molecular Genetics of Development, Adelaide University, South Australia, Australia.


Molecular and cellular analysis of early mammalian development is compromised by the experimental inaccessibility of the embryo. Pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cells are derived from and retain many properties of the pluripotent founder population of the embryo, the inner cell mass. Experimental manipulation of these cells and their environment in vitro provides an opportunity for the development of differentiation systems which can be used for analysis of the molecular and cellular basis of embryogenesis. In this review we discuss strengths and weaknesses of the available ES cell differentiation methodologies and their relationship to events in vivo. Exploitation of these systems is providing novel insight into embryonic processes as diverse as cell lineage establishment, cell progression during differentiation, patterning, morphogenesis and the molecular basis for cell properties in the early mammalian embryo.

Full text in web format is not available for this article. Please download the PDF version.