Despite its clinical and fundamental importance, our understanding of early human development remains limited. Stem cell-derived, embryo-like structures (or embryoids) allowing studies of early development without using natural embryos can potentially help fill the knowledge gap of human development. Herein, transcriptome at the single-cell level of a human embryoid model was profiled at different time points. Molecular maps of lineage diversifications from the pluripotent human epiblast toward the amniotic ectoderm, primitive streak/mesoderm, and primordial germ cells were constructed and compared with in vivo primate data. The comparative transcriptome analyses reveal a critical role of NODAL signaling in human mesoderm and primordial germ cell specification, which is further functionally validated. Through comparative transcriptome analyses and validations with human blastocysts and in vitro cultured cynomolgus embryos, we further proposed stringent criteria for distinguishing between human blastocyst trophectoderm and early amniotic ectoderm cells.
Keywords: NODAL signaling; amnion; human embryoid; mesoderm; microfluidics; primate development; primitive streak; primordial germ cell; single-cell transcriptome; trophoblast.
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