By explanting tissues isolated microsurgically from implanting strain 129 mouse blastocysts individually on STO feeder cells we have established that embryonic stem (ES) cells originate from the epiblast (primitive ectoderm). Isolated early epiblasts yielded ES cell lines at a substantially higher frequency than intact blastocysts regardless of whether they were explanted whole or as strictly single-cell suspensions. When explanted from delayed-implanting 129 blastocysts, epiblasts gave lines consistently in 100% of cases. If primary embryonic fibroblasts rather than STO cells were used as feeders, germline-competent ES cell lines were obtained readily from epiblasts of delayed-implanting blastocysts of several hitherto refractory strains, particularly when recombinant leukemia inhibitory factor was included in the medium during the initial period of culture. Because lines were obtained from the nonpermissive CBA/Ca strain at a rate of up to 56%, this approach to the derivation of germline-competent ES cell lines may not only prove generic for the mouse but also worth pursuing in other species of mammal
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