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Nat Commun. 2018 May 8;9(1):1819. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-04155-2.

Tracing the origin of heterogeneity and symmetry breaking in the early mammalian embryo.

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Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Reno, NV, 89557, USA.
Center for Computational and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 100101, Beijing, China.
Mammalian Development and Stem Cell Group, Department of Physiology, Development & Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EG, UK.


A fundamental question in developmental and stem cell biology concerns the origin and nature of signals that initiate asymmetry leading to pattern formation and self-organization. Instead of having prominent pre-patterning determinants as present in model organisms (worms, sea urchin, frog), we propose that the mammalian embryo takes advantage of more subtle cues such as compartmentalized intracellular reactions that generate micro-scale inhomogeneity, which is gradually amplified over several cellular generations to drive pattern formation while keeping developmental plasticity. It is therefore possible that by making use of compartmentalized information followed by its amplification, mammalian embryos would follow general principle of development found in other organisms in which the spatial cue is more robustly presented.

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