Refinement of a morphological scoring system for postimplantation rabbit conceptuses

Edward W. Carney, Belen Tornesi, Charles Keller, Heather A. Findlay, William S. Nowland, Valerie A. Marshall, Terence R.S. Ozolinš

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The rabbit is used extensively in developmental toxicity testing, yet basic information on rabbit embryo development is lacking. The goals of this study were to refine a rabbit embryo morphology scoring system, and use it to evaluate rabbit whole embryo cultures (WEC). METHODS: A total of 265 conceptuses were harvested between GD 8.0 and 12.0 (coitus = GD 0) at 6-hr intervals and examined in detail. Discreet developmental landmarks were then established for 18 morphological features and assigned scores ranging from 0 up to 6. The scoring system was then validated on a subset of randomly selected in vivo conceptuses, and was used to evaluate conceptuses grown for 12, 24, 36, or 48 hr in WEC beginning from GD 9.0 or 10.0. A few embryos also were examined using microscopic computed tomography (microCT)-based virtual histology™ to assess the utility of this technology. RESULTS: Morphology scores of in vivo developed conceptuses increased linearly (r2 = 0.98) with advancing gestational age, from means of 0.0 on GD 8.0 to 67.9 on GD 12.0. Application of the scoring system, supplemented with evidence from Virtual histology™, indicated that the WEC system supported normal morphological development of rabbit conceptuses. However, when explanted at GD 9, the rate of development was about 20% slower than in vivo, whereas the rate of development in WEC from GD 10 was indistinguishable from in vivo. CONCLUSIONS: This work enhances the evaluation tools available to study mechanisms of normal and abnormal development in this widely used animal testing species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalBirth Defects Research Part B - Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007


  • Comparative development
  • Embryo
  • Morphology
  • Whole embryo culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Embryology
  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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    Carney, E. W., Tornesi, B., Keller, C., Findlay, H. A., Nowland, W. S., Marshall, V. A., & Ozolinš, T. R. S. (2007). Refinement of a morphological scoring system for postimplantation rabbit conceptuses. Birth Defects Research Part B - Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology, 80(3), 213-222.