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Nat Rev Genet. 2009 Jul;10(7):467-77. doi: 10.1038/nrg2564.

Making a firm decision: multifaceted regulation of cell fate in the early mouse embryo.

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The Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1QN, UK. m.zernicka-goetz@


The preimplantation mammalian embryo offers a striking opportunity to address the question of how and why apparently identical cells take on separate fates. Two cell fate decisions are taken before the embryo implants; these decisions set apart a group of pluripotent cells, progenitors for the future body, from the distinct extraembryonic lineages of trophectoderm and primitive endoderm. New molecular, cellular and developmental insights reveal the interplay of transcriptional regulation, epigenetic modifications, cell position and cell polarity in these two fate decisions in the mouse. We discuss how mechanisms proposed in previously distinct models might work in concert to progressively reinforce cell fate decisions through feedback loops.

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