In mouse early development, cell contact patterns regulate the spatial organization and segregation of inner cell mass (ICM) and trophectoderm epithelium (TE) during blastocyst morphogenesis. Progressive membrane assembly of tight junctional (TJ) proteins in the differentiating TE during cleavage is upregulated by cell contact asymmetry (outside position) and suppressed within the ICM by cell contact symmetry (inside position). This is reversible, and immunosurgical isolation of the ICM induces upregulation of TJ assembly in a sequence that broadly mimics that occurring during blastocyst formation. The mechanism relating cell contact pattern and TJ assembly was investigated in the ICM model with respect to PKC-mediated signaling and gap junctional communication. Our results indicate that complete cell contact asymmetry is required for TJ biogenesis and acts upstream of PKC-mediated signaling. Specific inhibition of two PKC isoforms, PKC? and ?, revealed that both PKC activities are required for membrane assembly of ZO-2 TJ protein, while only PKC? activity is involved in regulating ZO-1?+ membrane assembly, suggesting different mechanisms for individual TJ proteins. Gap junctional communication had no apparent influence on either TJ formation or PKC signaling but was itself affected by changes of cell contact patterns. Our data suggest that the dynamics of cell contact patterns coordinate the spatial organization of TJ formation via specific PKC signaling pathways during blastocyst biogenesis
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