Cell plasticity is a core biological process underlying a myriad of molecular and cellular events taking place throughout organismal development and evolution. It has been postulated that cellular systems thrive to balance the organization of meta-stable states underlying this phenomenon, thereby maintaining a degree of populational homeostasis compatible with an ever-changing environment and, thus, life. Notably, albeit circumstantial evidence has been gathered in favour of the latter conceptual framework, a direct observation of meta-state dynamics and the biological consequences of such a process in generating non-genetic clonal diversity and divergent phenotypic output remains largely unexplored. To fill this void, here we develop a lineage-tracing technology termed Barcode decay Lineage Tracing-Seq. BdLT-Seq is based on episome-encoded molecular identifiers that, supported by the dynamic decay of the tracing information upon cell division, ascribe directionality to a cell lineage tree whilst directly coupling non-genetic molecular features to phenotypes in comparable genomic landscapes. We show that cell transcriptome states are both inherited, and dynamically reshaped following constrained rules encoded within the cell lineage in basal growth conditions, upon oncogene activation and throughout the process of reversible resistance to therapeutic cues thus adjusting phenotypic output leading to intra-clonal non-genetic diversity.
© 2023. The Author(s).