Connexin43 (Cx43) is a member of the family of channel-forming proteins that make up the gap junction and are believed to provide pathways for cell-cell exchange of developmental signals. We have used immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy to characterize the patterns of distribution of Cx43 in postimplantation mouse embryos representing stages of development extending through gastrulation and the major period of organogenesis [through 13.5 days post coitum (dpc)]. We find that Cx43 is expressed early after implantation by the undifferentiated, pluripotent cells of the primitive embryonic ectoderm from which all tissues of the fetus are believed to be derived. As cells become committed to particular developmental pathways, there is a progressive restriction of Cx43 to specific areas and organ systems. The patterns are complex and not limited by germ layer of origin, although there is a clear preference for expression in ectodermal and, to a lesser extent, mesodermal derivatives. Expression in lens, retina, kidney, brain, pineal and pituitary glands is initiated early in organogenesis. In heart, the first clear signal for Cx43 appears in the ventricle at about 10 dpc and is only subsequently detected in the atrium at about 13–13.5 dpc. Particularly intriguing with regard to functional implications is the high level expression observed at sites of inductive interaction; the eye lens and optic cup, the infundibulum and the apical ectodermal ridge of the limb bud.

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