Molecular factors and tissue compartments involved in the foundation of the mammalian germline have been mainly described in the mouse so far. To find mechanisms applicable to mammals in general, we analyzed temporal and spatial expression patterns of the transcriptional repressor BLIMP1 (also known as PRDM1) and the signaling molecules BMP2 and BMP4 in perigastrulation and early neurulation embryos of the rabbit using whole-mount in situ hybridization and high-resolution light microscopy. Both BMP2 and BMP4 are expressed in annular domains at the boundary of the embryonic disc, which—in contrast to the situation in the mouse—partly belong to intraembryonic tissues. While BMP2 expression begins at (pregastrulation) stage 1 in the hypoblast, BMP4 expression commences—distinctly delayed compared to the mouse—diffusely at (pregastrulation) stage 2; from stage 3 onwards, BMP4 is expressed peripherally in hypoblast and epiblast and in the mesoderm at the posterior pole of the embryonic disc. BLIMP1 expression begins throughout the hypoblast at stage 1 and emerges in single primordial germ cell (PGC) precursors in the posterior epiblast at stage 2 and then in single mesoderm cells at positions identical to those identified by PGC-specific antibodies. These expression patterns suggest that function and chronology of factors involved in germline segregation are similar in mouse and rabbit, but higher temporal and spatial resolution offered by the rabbit demonstrates a variable role of bone morphogenetic proteins and makes “blimping” a candidate case for lateral inhibition without the need for an allantoic germ cell niche
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