To spatially co-exist and differentially specify fates within developing tissues, morphogenetic cues must be correctly positioned and interpreted. Here, we investigate mouse hair follicle development to understand how morphogens operate within closely spaced, fate-diverging progenitors. Coupling transcriptomics with genetics, we show that emerging hair progenitors produce both WNTs and WNT inhibitors. Surprisingly, however, instead of generating a negative feedback loop, the signals oppositely polarize, establishing sharp boundaries and consequently a short-range morphogen gradient that we show is essential for three-dimensional pattern formation. By establishing a morphogen gradient at the cellular level, signals become constrained. The progenitor preserves its WNT signaling identity and maintains WNT signaling with underlying mesenchymal neighbors, while its overlying epithelial cells become WNT-restricted. The outcome guarantees emergence of adjacent distinct cell types to pattern the tissue.
RNA sequencing data have been deposited in the Gene Expression Omnibus under accession number GSE108745
WNT-signaling cells polarize inhibitors to protect their identity and fateNCBI Gene Expression Omnibus, GSE108745.
- Elaine Fuchs
- Elaine Fuchs
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All animal procedures used in this study are described in our #17020-H protocol named Development and Differentiation in the Skin, which had been previously reviewed and approved by the Rockefeller University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).
- Valerie Horsley, Yale University, United States
© 2020, Matos et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
During embryonic development cells acquire identity at the same time as they are proliferating, implying that an intrinsic facet of cell fate choice requires coupling lineage decisions to rates of cell division. How is the cell cycle regulated to promote or suppress heterogeneity and differentiation? We explore this question combining time lapse imaging with single cell RNA-seq in the contexts of self-renewal, priming and differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) towards the Primitive Endoderm lineage (PrE). Since ESCs are derived from the Inner Cell Mass of the mammalian blastocyst, ESCs in standard culture conditions are transcriptionally heterogeneous containing subfractions that are primed for either of the two ICM lineages, Epiblast and PrE. These subfractions represent dynamic states that can readily interconvert in culture, and the PrE subfraction is functionally primed for endoderm differentiation. Here we find that differential regulation of cell cycle can tip the balance between these primed populations, such that naïve ESC culture conditions promote Epiblast-like expansion and PrE differentiation stimulates the selective survival and proliferation of PrE-primed cells. In endoderm differentiation, we find that this change is accompanied by a counter-intuitive increase in G1 length that also appears replicated in vivo. While FGF/ERK signalling is a known key regulator of ESCs and PrE differentiation, we find it is not just responsible for ESCs heterogeneity, but also cell cycle synchronisation, required for the inheritance of similar cell cycles between sisters and cousins. Taken together, our results point to a tight relationship between transcriptional heterogeneity and cell cycle regulation in the context of lineage priming, with primed cell populations providing a pool of flexible cell types that can be expanded in a lineage-specific fashion while allowing plasticity during early determination.
Animal development requires coordination among cyclic processes, sequential cell fate specifications, and once-a-lifetime morphogenic events, but the underlying timing mechanisms are not well understood. Caenorhabditis elegans undergoes four molts at regular 8 to 10 hour intervals. The pace of the cycle is governed by PERIOD/lin-42 and other as-yet unknown factors. Cessation of the cycle in young adults is controlled by the let-7 family of microRNAs and downstream transcription factors in the heterochronic pathway. Here, we characterize a negative feedback loop between NHR-23, the worm homolog of mammalian retinoid-related orphan receptors (RORs), and the let-7 family of microRNAs that regulates both the frequency and finite number of molts. The molting cycle is decelerated in nhr-23 knockdowns and accelerated in let-7(−) mutants, but timed similarly in let-7(−) nhr-23(−) double mutants and wild-type animals. NHR-23 binds response elements (ROREs) in the let-7 promoter and activates transcription. In turn, let-7 dampens nhr-23 expression across development via a complementary let-7-binding site (LCS) in the nhr-23 3′ UTR. The molecular interactions between NHR-23 and let-7 hold true for other let-7 family microRNAs. Either derepression of nhr-23 transcripts by LCS deletion or high gene dosage of nhr-23 leads to protracted behavioral quiescence and extra molts in adults. NHR-23 and let-7 also coregulate scores of genes required for execution of the molts, including lin-42. In addition, ROREs and LCSs isolated from mammalian ROR and let-7 genes function in C. elegans, suggesting conservation of this feedback mechanism. We propose that this feedback loop unites the molting timer and the heterochronic gene regulatory network, possibly by functioning as a cycle counter.