Certain embryonal carcinoma (EC) cell lines can colonize the embryo following blastocyst injection or embryo aggregation, giving rise to EC-embryo chimaeras. However, such chimaeras often develop abnormally. For example, diploid P19 cells colonize the embryo readily but resulting chimaeras are usually abnormal, with persistence of tumour cells. Retinoic acid (RA) induces differentiation of EC cells to a variety of cell types in vitro but, in this study, it was shown that pretreatment of P19 cells with RA did not result in more normal development of P19-embryo chimaeras. The only significant effect of RA was to reduce the ability of P19 cells to participate in embryonic development at all after blastocyst injection. RA did not have a direct toxic or teratogenic effect on preimplantation mouse embryos and did not affect the ability of pluripotent embryo cells to colonize chimaeras. Therefore, RA may not be the normal inducer of differentiation in early embryogenesis.

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