In situ hybridization (ISH) and immunocytochemistry were used to localize sites of synthesis and deposition of the basement membrane glycoprotein laminin during development in the postimplantation mouse embryo and extraembryonic membranes. In addition, similar studies were performed on postnatal viscera during the first 20 days after birth. Up to 10 days post coitum, embryonic laminin synthesis was confined to parietal endoderm. In maternal tissue, intense laminin mRNA expression was detected in decidual cells in the mesometrial and antimesometrial endometrium at 5–7 days. At 10 days, uniform expression was still seen within the mesometrial endometrium, with higher levels around migrating trophoblast, but in the antimesometrial aspect expression was restricted to the basal zone. High levels of mRNA expression persisted in parietal endoderm throughout gestation but much lower levels were detected in visceral yolk sac. In the mature placenta, laminin mRNA expression was also found associated with fetal vessels in the labyrinth and giant cells at the fetal/maternal boundary. In the embryo, the external limiting membrane of the cerebral vesicles and spinal cord stained for laminin protein and detectable mRNA was found in the pia mater. Growing peripheral nerves and dorsal and ventral root fibres expressed laminin mRNA and stained for laminin protein. Laminin mRNA expression was found in ureteric buds and nephrogenic vesicles (but not in metanephric blastema) during early prenatal kidney development, and in glomeruli, Bowman's capsule, loops of Henle and collecting duct cells at later stages of development, and after birth. All these structures possessed laminin-rich basement membrane (BM). Laminin mRNA expression fell to below detectable levels in the kidney around weaning. In the gut, laminin expression and protein staining was confined to the muscularis externa and the lamina propria during embryogenesis. After birth, the muscularis externa, muscularis mucosa and lamina propria cells corresponding to fibroblasts had detectable laminin mRNA, but in adult gut no laminin mRNA could be demonstrated in any cell type. In liver, low levels of laminin mRNA were seen in the capsule and in periportal connective tissue. After birth, laminin mRNA was associated with intrahepatic bile channels; no laminin mRNA was detected in the parenchyma and protein deposition was restricted to blood sinus BM. In the adult liver, no laminin mRNA was detected in any cell type. The developing heart showed uniform expression of laminin mRNA from 12 days to before birth. Postnatally, labelling was restricted to connective tissue cells.

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