The mammalian epiblast is formed by pluripotent cells able to differentiate into all tissues of the new individual. In their progression to differentiation, epiblast cells and their in vitro counterparts, embryonic stem cells (ESCs), transit from naive pluripotency through a differentiation-primed pluripotent state. During these events, epiblast cells and ESCs are prone to death, driven by competition between Myc-high cells (winners) and Myc-low cells (losers). Using live tracking of Myc levels, we show that Myc-high ESCs approach the naive pluripotency state, whereas Myc-low ESCs are closer to the differentiation-primed state. In ESC colonies, naive cells eliminate differentiating cells by cell competition, which is determined by a limitation in the time losers are able to survive persistent contact with winners. In the mouse embryo, cell competition promotes pluripotency maintenance by elimination of primed lineages before gastrulation. The mechanism described here is relevant to mammalian embryo development and induced pluripotency.
Keywords: cell competition; cell reprogramming; embryonic stem cells; epiblast; gastrulation; mammalian embryo.
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