A morula is an embryo
An embryo is a multicellular diploid eukaryote in its earliest stage of development, from the time of first cell division until birth, hatching, or germination...

 at an early stage of embryonic development, consisting of cells
Cell (biology)
The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life. The Alberts text discusses how the "cellular building blocks" move to shape developing embryos....

 (called blastomere
A blastomere is a type of cell produced by division of the egg after fertilization.- References :* "Blastomere." Stedman's Medical Dictionary, 27th ed. . ISBN 0-683-40007-X...

s) in a solid ball contained within the zona pellucida
Zona pellucida
The zona pellucida is a glycoprotein membrane surrounding the plasma membrane of an oocyte. It is a vital constitutive part of the latter, external but of essential importance to it...


The morula is produced by embryonic cleavage
Cleavage (embryo)
In embryology, cleavage is the division of cells in the early embryo. The zygotes of many species undergo rapid cell cycles with no significant growth, producing a cluster of cells the same size as the original zygote. The different cells derived from cleavage are called blastomeres and form a...

, the rapid division
Mitosis is the process by which a eukaryotic cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets, in two separate nuclei. It is generally followed immediately by cytokinesis, which divides the nuclei, cytoplasm, organelles and cell membrane into two cells containing roughly...

 of the zygote
A zygote , or zygocyte, is the initial cell formed when two gamete cells are joined by means of sexual reproduction. In multicellular organisms, it is the earliest developmental stage of the embryo...

. Once the zygote has divided into 32 cells, it begins to resemble a mulberry
Morus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Moraceae. The 10–16 species of deciduous trees it contains are commonly known as Mulberries....

, hence the name morula (Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, morus: mulberry
Morus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Moraceae. The 10–16 species of deciduous trees it contains are commonly known as Mulberries....

). Within a few days after fertilization, cells on the outer part of the morula become bound tightly together with the formation of desmosomes and gap junctions, becoming nearly indistinguishable. This process is known as compaction. The cells of the morula then secrete a viscous liquid, causing a central cavity to be formed, forming a hollow ball of cells known as the blastocyst
The blastocyst is a structure formed in the early embryogenesis of mammals, after the formation of the morula. It is a specifically mammalian example of a blastula. It possesses an inner cell mass , or embryoblast, which subsequently forms the embryo, and an outer layer of cells, or trophoblast,...

. The blastocyst's outer cells will become the first embryonic epithelium
Epithelium is one of the four basic types of animal tissue, along with connective tissue, muscle tissue and nervous tissue. Epithelial tissues line the cavities and surfaces of structures throughout the body, and also form many glands. Functions of epithelial cells include secretion, selective...

 (the trophectoderm). Some cells, however, will remain trapped in the interior and will become the inner cell mass
Inner cell mass
In early embryogenesis of most eutherian mammals, the inner cell mass is the mass of cells inside the primordial embryo that will eventually give rise to the definitive structures of the fetus...

(ICM), and are pluripotent. In mammals (except monotremes), the ICM will ultimately form the "embryo proper", while the trophectoderm will form the placenta
The placenta is an organ that connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother's blood supply. "True" placentas are a defining characteristic of eutherian or "placental" mammals, but are also found in some snakes and...

and other extra-embryonic tissues.

Further reading

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