Our investigations concerning the importance of cell surface macromolecules during embryonic development led us to the discovery in 1961 that heterologous anti-rat kidney serum produced teratogenesis, growth retardation and embryonic death when injected into the pregnant rat during early organogenesis. It was established that IgG was the teratogenic agent, primarily directed against the visceral yolk sac (VYS) but not the embryo. Heterologous anti-rat VYS serum was prepared which was teratogenic localized in the VYS and served as a model for producing VYS dysfunction and embryonic malnutrition. The role of the yolk sac placenta in histiotrophic nutrition is now recognized to be critical for normal embryonic development during early organogenesis in the rodent. VYS antiserum affects embryonic development primarily by inhibiting endocytosis of proteins by the VYS endoderm, resulting in a reduction in the amino acids supplied to the embryo. Our laboratory has recently developed teratogenic monoclonal yolk sac antibodies (MCA) which can be utilized; to study VYS plasma membrane synthesis and recycling, to compare yolk sac function among different species, and to identify components of the plasma membrane involved in pinocytosis. MCA prepared against certain VYS antigens provide an opportunity to study embryonic nutrition with minimal interference with the nutritional state of the mother. Recent developments in the study of the human yolk sac along with our laboratory's ability to isolate a spectrum of yolk sac antigens, prepare monoclonal antibodies, and perform functional studies, should provide information that will increase our understanding of yolk sac function and dysfunction in the human and determine the relative importance of various amino acids to normal development during mammalian organogenesis.