The malignant growth potential of embryonal carcinoma cells may be controlled by environmental factors. For example, embryonal carcinoma cells placed into normal blastocysts may not exhibit the continued growth expected of malignant cells but rather may lose all aspects of the malignant phenotype and become apparently normal embryonic cells. Loss of the malignant phenotype of embryonal carcinoma cells occurs early in these injected blastocysts and has been used as the basis of assays to study the mechanisms of regulation of embryonal carcinoma by the blastocyst. In this regard, P19, an embryonal carcinoma that makes midgestation chimeras, was regulated by blastocele fluid plus contact with trophectoderm but not by blastocele fluid plus contact with inner cell mass (ICM). In contrast, ECa 247, which makes trophectoderm, was regulated by exposure to blastocele fluid plus contact with trophectoderm or ICM. During the course of these experiments, dead embryonal carcinoma and ICM cells were observed, and blastocele fluid was then shown to kill ECa 247 and normal ICM cells of early blastocysts with trophectodermal potential. P19 cells and ICM cells with potential to make the embryo were not killed by blastocele fluid. Programmed cell death occurs in the ICM of the blastocyst during the transition from early (when ICM has the potential to make trophectoderm) to late (when the ICM lacks the potential to make trophectoderm). It is postulated that this programmed cell death is designed to eliminate redundant ICM cells with trophectodermal potential, and its mechanism of action is mediated by epigenetic factors in blastocele fluid
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