During early mammalian embryo development, a small number of cells make robust fate decisions at particular spatial locations in a tight time window to form inner cell mass (ICM), and later epiblast (Epi) and primitive endoderm (PE). While recent single-cell transcriptomics data allows scrutinization of heterogeneity of individual cells, consistent spatial and temporal mechanisms the early embryo utilize to robustly form the Epi/PE layers from ICM remain elusive. Here we build a multiscale three-dimensional model for mammalian embryo to recapitulate the observed patterning process from zygote to late blastocyst. By integrating the spatiotemporal information reconstructed from multiple single-cell transcriptomic datasets, the data-informed modeling analysis suggests two major processes critical to the formation of Epi/PE layers: a selective cell-cell adhesion mechanism (via EphA4/EphrinB2) for fate-location coordination and a temporal attenuation mechanism of cell signaling (via Fgf). Spatial imaging data and distinct subsets of single-cell gene expression data are then used to validate the predictions. Together, our study provides a multiscale framework that incorporates single-cell gene expression datasets to analyze gene regulations, cell-cell communications, and physical interactions among cells in complex geometries at single-cell resolution, with direct application to late-stage development of embryogenesis.
The model results are validated by in vivo image data and supported by scRNA-seq data.
Zixuan Cang*, Yangyang Wang*, Qixuan Wang, Ken WY Cho, William Holmes, and Qing Nie. "A multiscale model via single-cell transcriptomics reveals robust patterning mechanisms during early mammalian embryo development." PLOS Computational Biology 17, no. 3 (2021): e1008571.