Post-implantation embryogenesis is a highly dynamic process comprising multiple lineage decisions and morphogenetic changes that are inaccessible to deep analysis in vivo. We found that pluripotent mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) form aggregates that upon embedding in an extracellular matrix compound induce the formation of highly organized "trunk-like structures" (TLSs) comprising the neural tube and somites. Comparative single-cell RNA sequencing analysis confirmed that this process is highly analogous to mouse development and follows the same stepwise gene-regulatory program. Tbx6 knockout TLSs developed additional neural tubes mirroring the embryonic mutant phenotype, and chemical modulation could induce excess somite formation. TLSs thus reveal an advanced level of self-organization and provide a powerful platform for investigating post-implantation embryogenesis in a dish.
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