Integrated pseudotime analysis of human pre-implantation embryo single-cell transcriptomes reveals the dynamics of lineage specification

Cell Stem Cell. 2021 Sep 2;28(9):1625-1640.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2021.04.027. Epub 2021 May 17.


Understanding lineage specification during human pre-implantation development is a gateway to improving assisted reproductive technologies and stem cell research. Here we employ pseudotime analysis of single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) data to reconstruct early mouse and human embryo development. Using time-lapse imaging of annotated embryos, we provide an integrated, ordered, and continuous analysis of transcriptomics changes throughout human development. We reveal that human trophectoderm/inner cell mass transcriptomes diverge at the transition from the B2 to the B3 blastocyst stage, just before blastocyst expansion. We explore the dynamics of the fate markers IFI16 and GATA4 and show that they gradually become mutually exclusive upon establishment of epiblast and primitive endoderm fates, respectively. We also provide evidence that NR2F2 marks trophectoderm maturation, initiating from the polar side, and subsequently spreads to all cells after implantation. Our study pinpoints the precise timing of lineage specification events in the human embryo and identifies transcriptomics hallmarks and cell fate markers.

Keywords: blastocyst; cell fate; epiblast; human embryo; lineage specification; pluripotency; preimplantation development; pseudotime; scRNA-seq; trophectoderm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastocyst
  • Cell Lineage / genetics
  • Embryonic Development* / genetics
  • Germ Layers
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Transcriptome* / genetics