Summary. Twelve blastocysts, collected 7–12 days after ovulation (Day 0), were examined by light and electron microscopy to investigate the nature of the relationship of the polar trophoblast (Rauber's layer) to the inner cell mass. On Day 7, the polar trophoblast was intact and formed a flattened layer overlying the epiblast cells of the inner cell mass. As blastocysts enlarged to > 1 mm in diameter, small discontinuities appeared in the polar trophoblast, where epiblast cells intruded onto the surface. At this time, trophoblast cells adhered closely to adjacent and underlying epiblast cells, forming an irregular layer of cells capping the epiblast. With continued increase in blastocyst size, polar trophoblast cells became isolated but maintained their characteristic apical endocytic structures. By Days 10–12, the scattered trophoblast cells showed evidence of deterioration, and vacuoles containing cell debris were common within the epiblast.
It is suggested that polar trophoblast cells become scattered, rather than withdrawing as a unit, because they become more adherent to subjacent epiblast cells than to adjacent trophoblast cells. It is further suggested that most of the isolated cells are eventually phagocytosed by epiblast cells.
Keywords: horse; blastocyst; trophoblast; differentiation; inner cell mass