During vertebrate gastrulation, mesoderm is induced in pluripotent cells, concomitant with dorsal-ventral patterning and establishing of the dorsal axis. We applied single-cell chromatin accessibility and transcriptome analyses to explore the emergence of cellular heterogeneity during gastrulation in Xenopus tropicalis. Transcriptionally inactive lineage-restricted genes exhibit relatively open chromatin in animal caps, whereas chromatin accessibility in dorsal marginal zone cells more closely reflects transcriptional activity. We characterized single-cell trajectories and identified head and trunk organizer cell clusters in early gastrulae. By integrating chromatin accessibility and transcriptome data, we inferred the activity of transcription factors in single-cell clusters and tested the activity of organizer-expressed transcription factors in animal caps, alone or in combination. The expression profile induced by a combination of Foxb1 and Eomes most closely resembles that observed in the head organizer. Genes induced by Eomes, Otx2, or the Irx3-Otx2 combination are enriched for maternally regulated H3K4me3 modifications, whereas Lhx8-induced genes are marked more frequently by zygotically controlled H3K4me3. Taken together, our results show that transcription factors cooperate in a combinatorial fashion in generally open chromatin to orchestrate zygotic gene expression.
Keywords: cell trajectories; chromatin accessibility; mesendoderm; organizer; transcription factors.
© 2021 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY NC ND 4.0 license.