Tetraploidy in mice, embryonic cell number, and the grain of the developmental map

Dev Biol. 1992 Aug;152(2):233-41. doi: 10.1016/0012-1606(92)90131-y.


Tetraploid mice prepared by electrofusion develop for up to 14 days in utero. The embryos are essentially normal save that the forebrain and its associated tissues fail to develop properly. Here, we report measurements of cell counts in tissues and volume measurements of tetraploid and control embryos together with observations on the morphology of tetraploid embryos. The results show that the tetraploid embryos are about 85% normal size, but have only a little under half the number of cells of control embryos, with their nuclei being about twice the size of those of diploid cells. Close examination of sectioned material, in contrast, showed that tetraploid morphology and morphogenesis were indistinguishable from those of controls, except in forebrain-associated material. This conclusion gives some insight into an important developmental question, how fine can the developmental map be for normal cellular differentiation to proceed? As tetraploids have only about half the expected number of cells, the ability of these embryos to develop normally in all regions except the forebrain and its derivatives argues that pattern formation mechanisms can cope with the abnormally small number of cells in all regions except the forebrain. The results as a whole argue for size regulation in mammalian embryos being achieved by assaying absolute size rather than counting cell numbers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Morphogenesis
  • Polyploidy*
  • Prosencephalon / abnormalities
  • Prosencephalon / embryology*