Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 35729116
Link to DOI – 10.1038/s41467-022-30858-8
Nat Commun 2022 Jun; 13(1): 3550
The epiblast is the source of all mammalian embryonic tissues and of pluripotent embryonic stem cells. It differentiates alongside the primitive endoderm in a “salt and pepper” pattern from inner cell mass (ICM) progenitors during the preimplantation stages through the activity of NANOG, GATA6 and the FGF pathway. When and how epiblast lineage specification is initiated is still unclear. Here, we show that the coordinated expression of pluripotency markers defines epiblast identity. Conversely, ICM progenitor cells display random cell-to-cell variability in expression of various pluripotency markers, remarkably dissimilar from the epiblast signature and independently from NANOG, GATA6 and FGF activities. Coordination of pluripotency markers expression fails in Nanog and Gata6 double KO (DKO) embryos. Collectively, our data suggest that NANOG triggers epiblast specification by ensuring the coordinated expression of pluripotency markers in a subset of cells, implying a stochastic mechanism. These features are likely conserved, as suggested by analysis of human embryos.