We characterized gap junctional communication in the extraembryonic tissues of the 7.5-d gastrulating mouse embryo. At this stage of development, the extraembryonic tissues form a large part of the conceptus, and link the embryo proper to the maternal tissue. Using Lucifer yellow injections, cells in most extraembryonic tissues were observed to be very well dye coupled, the only exception being the peripheral regions of the ectoplacental cone. Of particular interest was the fact that no dye coupling was detected between the three major extraembryonic tissues. Thus, the extraembryonic ectoderm (EEC), the extraembryonic endoderm (EEN), and the ectoplacental cone (EPC) corresponded to separate communication compartments, with the EPC being further subdivided into three compartments. Interestingly, the EEN was observed to exhibit a very low level of dye coupling with the adjacent visceral embryonic endoderm (EN), and consistent with the latter dye coupling results was the finding that the EEN was ionically coupled to the EN, but not with any other extraembryonic tissues. However, in the EPC, ionic coupling studies show that the central region was well coupled ionically to the EEC, but only weakly coupled to the peripheral EPC. These findings, in conjunction with our previous study (1988. J. Cell Biol. 107:241-255), demonstrate that the 7.5-d mouse conceptus is subdivided into at least nine major Lucifer yellow-delineated communication compartments, with ionic coupling across some of these compartments effectively unifying the embryo into two large domains corresponding to the embryo proper and the major extraembryonic tissues.

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