Zebrafish embryonic explants undergo genetically encoded self-assembly
Embryonic stem cell cultures are thought to self-organize into embryoid bodies, able to undergo symmetry-breaking, germ layer specification and even morphogenesis. Yet, it is unclear how to reconcile this remarkable self-organization capacity with classical experiments demonstrating key roles for extrinsic biases by maternal factors and/or extraembryonic tissues in embryogenesis. Here, we show that zebrafish embryonic tissue explants, prepared prior to germ layer induction and lacking extraembryonic tissues, can specify all germ layers and form a seemingly complete mesendoderm anlage. Importantly, explant organization requires polarized inheritance of maternal factors from dorsal-marginal regions of the blastoderm. Moreover, induction of endoderm and head-mesoderm, which require peak Nodal-signaling levels, is highly variable in explants, reminiscent of embryos with reduced Nodal signals from the extraembryonic tissues. Together, these data suggest that zebrafish explants do not undergo bona-fide self-organization, but rather display features of genetically encoded self-assembly, where intrinsic genetic programs control the emergence of order.
All data generated and analyzed in the manuscript are provided as Source Data Files. The Custom Script used has been uploaded as Source code 1.
Article and author information
H2020 European Research Council (MECSPEC742573)
- Carl-Philipp Heisenberg
Austrian Academy of Sciences
- Alexandra Schauer
European Molecular Biology Organization (850-2017)
- Diana Pinheiro
Human Frontier Science Program (LT000429/2018-L2)
- Diana Pinheiro
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 experiments in this study were performed in strict accordance with the guidelines of the Ethics and Animal Welfare Committee (ETK) in Austria. The respective approval number that covers the performed experiments is 66.018/0010-WF/II/3b/2014.
- Ashley Bruce
- Received: January 15, 2020
- Accepted: April 5, 2020
- Accepted Manuscript published: April 6, 2020 (version 1)
- Version of Record published: April 29, 2020 (version 2)
© 2020, Schauer 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.
- Page views
Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Scopus, Crossref, PubMed Central.
Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)
Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)
Cite this article (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)
- Developmental Biology
- Computational and Systems Biology
Many developmental processes depend on precise temporal control of gene expression. We have previously established a theoretical framework for regulatory strategies that can govern such high temporal precision, but experimental validation of these predictions was still lacking. Here, we use the time-dependent expression of a Wnt receptor that controls neuroblast migration in Caenorhabditis elegans as a tractable system to study a robust, cell-intrinsic timing mechanism in vivo. Single-molecule mRNA quantification showed that the expression of the receptor increases non-linearly, a dynamic that is predicted to enhance timing precision over an unregulated, linear increase in timekeeper abundance. We show that this upregulation depends on transcriptional activation, providing in vivo evidence for a model in which the timing of receptor expression is regulated through an accumulating activator that triggers expression when a specific threshold is reached. This timing mechanism acts across a cell division that occurs in the neuroblast lineage and is influenced by the asymmetry of the division. Finally, we show that positive feedback of receptor expression through the canonical Wnt pathway enhances temporal precision. We conclude that robust cell-intrinsic timing can be achieved by combining regulation and feedback of the timekeeper gene.
- Developmental Biology
- Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine
During mammalian development, the left and right ventricles arise from early populations of cardiac progenitors known as the first and second heart fields, respectively. While these populations have been extensively studied in non-human model systems, their identification and study in vivo human tissues have been limited due to the ethical and technical limitations of accessing gastrulation stage human embryos. Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) present an exciting alternative for modeling early human embryogenesis due to their well-established ability to differentiate into all embryonic germ layers. Here, we describe the development of a TBX5/MYL2 lineage tracing reporter system that allows for the identification of FHF- progenitors and their descendants including left ventricular cardiomyocytes. Furthermore, using single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) with oligonucleotide-based sample multiplexing, we extensively profiled differentiating hiPSCs across 12 timepoints in two independent iPSC lines. Surprisingly, our reporter system and scRNA-seq analysis revealed a predominance of FHF differentiation using the small molecule Wnt-based 2D differentiation protocol. We compared this data with existing murine and 3D cardiac organoid scRNA-seq data and confirmed the dominance of left ventricular cardiomyocytes (>90%) in our hiPSC-derived progeny. Together, our work provides the scientific community with a powerful new genetic lineage tracing approach as well as a single cell transcriptomic atlas of hiPSCs undergoing cardiac differentiation.