Myc-driven endogenous cell competition in the early mammalian embryo

Nature. 2013 Aug 1;500(7460):39-44. doi: 10.1038/nature12389. Epub 2013 Jul 10.


The epiblast is the mammalian embryonic tissue that contains the pluripotent stem cells that generate the whole embryo. We have established a method for inducing functional genetic mosaics in the mouse. Using this system, here we show that induction of a mosaic imbalance of Myc expression in the epiblast provokes the expansion of cells with higher Myc levels through the apoptotic elimination of cells with lower levels, without disrupting development. In contrast, homogeneous shifts in Myc levels did not affect epiblast cell viability, indicating that the observed competition results from comparison of relative Myc levels between epiblast cells. During normal development we found that Myc levels are intrinsically heterogeneous among epiblast cells, and that endogenous cell competition refines the epiblast cell population through the elimination of cells with low relative Myc levels. These results show that natural cell competition in the early mammalian embryo contributes to the selection of the epiblast cell pool.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, myc
  • Germ Layers / cytology*
  • Germ Layers / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Mosaicism / embryology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc