The protein content of rabbit embryos during the first 7 days of development in vivo was determined. The protein content of intact embryos, embryonic cells (intact embryos without mucin coats for developmental stages up to 96 h post-coitum and free of blastocyst coverings for later stages) and blastocyst coverings were determined by the Pierce Micro BCA assay. The mean protein content of intact one-cell or two-cell embryos was 0.16 μg and increased at the four- to six-cell stage with no further increase until the late morula/early blastocyst stages (days 3 to 4). There was a 53-fold increase in protein from the early to late blastocyst stages. The protein content of embryonic cells was stable at a mean value of 0.16 μg until the late morula stage (day 3) and then increased to a mean of 6.85 μg on day 6 and 50.38 μg on day 7. The increase in protein content of intact embryos up to about 72 h appeared to be due solely to an increase in the protein content of the mucin coat. The protein content of the blastocyst coverings increased from a mean of 2 μg on day 5 to a mean of 35 μg on day 7. For blastocyst stages, the total protein content of intact blastocysts and of embryonic cells was correlated with the surface area of the embryos (r2 = 0.895 and 0.873, respectively) and, thus, an increase in blastocyst size is a true index of blastocyst development.
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