The mesoderm arises from pluripotent epiblasts and differentiates into multiple lineages; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms are unclear. Tbx6 is enriched in the paraxial mesoderm and is implicated in somite formation, but its function in other mesoderms remains elusive. Here, using direct reprogramming-based screening, single-cell RNA-seq in mouse embryos, and directed cardiac differentiation in pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), we demonstrated that Tbx6 induces nascent mesoderm from PSCs and determines cardiovascular and somite lineage specification via its temporal expression. Tbx6 knockout in mouse PSCs using CRISPR/Cas9 technology inhibited mesoderm and cardiovascular differentiation, whereas transient Tbx6 expression induced mesoderm and cardiovascular specification from mouse and human PSCs via direct upregulation of Mesp1, repression of Sox2, and activation of BMP/Nodal/Wnt signaling. Notably, prolonged Tbx6 expression suppressed cardiac differentiation and induced somite lineages, including skeletal muscle and chondrocytes. Thus, Tbx6 is critical for mesoderm induction and subsequent lineage diversification.
Keywords: Tbx6; cardiovascular; chondrocyte; mesoderm; pluripotent stem cell; skeletal muscle.
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