The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 58: 175 - 181 (2014)

Vol 58, Issue 2-3-4

Special Issue: Embryo Implantation

Embryo-endometrial interactions during early development after embryonic diapause in the marsupial tammar wallaby

Published: 10 July 2014

Marilyn B. Renfree* and Geoff Shaw

Department of Zoology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


The marsupial tammar wallaby has the longest period of embryonic diapause of any mammal. Reproduction in the tammar is seasonal, regulated by photoperiod and also lactation. Reactivation is triggered by falling daylength after the austral summer solstice in December. Young are born late January and commence a 9-10-month lactation. Females mate immediately after birth. The resulting conceptus develops over 6- 7 days to form a unilaminar blastocyst of 80-100 cells and enters lactationally, and later seasonally, controlled diapause. The proximate endocrine signal for reactivation is an increase in progesterone which alters uterine secretions. Since the diapausing blastocyst is surrounded by the zona and 2 other acellular coats, the mucoid layer and shell coat, the uterine signals that maintain or terminate diapause must involve soluble factors in the secretions rather than any direct cellular interaction between uterus and embryo. Our studies suggest involvement of a number of cytokines in the regulation of diapause in tammars. The endometrium secretes platelet activating factor (PAF) and leukaemia inhibitory factor, which increase after reactivation. Receptors for PAF are low on the blastocyst during diapause but are upregulated at reactivation. Conversely, there is endometrial expression of the muscle segment homeobox gene MSX2 throughout diapause, but it is rapidly downregulated at reactivation. These patterns are consistent with those observed in diapausing mice and mink after reactivation, despite the very different patterns of endocrine control of diapause in these 3 divergent species. These common patterns suggest a similar underlying mechanism for diapause, perhaps common to all mammals, but which is activated in only a few.


embryonic diapause, marsupial, MSX, PAF, LIF

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