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Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 20;9(1):8930. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-45438-y.

Computational analysis of single-cell transcriptomics data elucidates the stabilization of Oct4 expression in the E3.25 mouse preimplantation embryo.

Author information

1
Computational Biology and Systems Biomedicine Group, Biodonostia Health Research Institute, Calle Doctor Beguiristain s/n, San Sebastián, 20014, Spain.
2
Computational Biomedicine Data Analysis Platform, Biodonostia Health Research Institute, Calle Doctor Beguiristain s/n, San Sebastián, 20014, Spain.
3
Computational Biology and Systems Biomedicine Group, Biodonostia Health Research Institute, Calle Doctor Beguiristain s/n, San Sebastián, 20014, Spain. mararabra@yahoo.co.uk.
4
Computational Biomedicine Data Analysis Platform, Biodonostia Health Research Institute, Calle Doctor Beguiristain s/n, San Sebastián, 20014, Spain. mararabra@yahoo.co.uk.
5
IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science, Calle María Díaz Harokoa 3, 48013, Bilbao, Spain. mararabra@yahoo.co.uk.
6
CIBER of Frailty and Healthy Aging (CIBERfes), Madrid, Spain. mararabra@yahoo.co.uk.

Abstract

Our computational analysis focuses on the 32- to 64-cell mouse embryo transition, Embryonic day (E3.25), whose study in literature is concentrated mainly on the search for an early onset of the second cell-fate decision, the specification of the inner cell mass (ICM) to primitive endoderm (PE) and epiblast (EPI). We analysed single-cell (sc) microarray transcriptomics data from E3.25 using Hierarchical Optimal k-Means (HOkM) clustering, and identified two groups of ICM cells: a group of cells from embryos with less than 34 cells (E3.25-LNCs), and another group of cells from embryos with more than 33 cells (E3.25-HNCs), corresponding to two developmental stages. Although we found massive underlying heterogeneity in the ICM cells at E3.25-HNC with over 3,800 genes with transcriptomics bifurcation, many of which are PE and EPI markers, we showed that the E3.25-HNCs are neither PE nor EPI. Importantly, analysing the differently expressed genes between the E3.25-LNCs and E3.25-HNCs, we uncovered a non-autonomous mechanism, based on a minimal number of four inner-cell contacts in the ICM, which activates Oct4 in the preimplantation embryo. Oct4 is highly expressed but unstable at E3.25-LNC, and stabilizes at high level at E3.25-HNC, with Bsg highly expressed, and the chromatin remodelling program initialised to establish an early naïve pluripotent state. Our results indicate that the pluripotent state we found to exist in the ICM at E3.25-HNC is the in vivo counterpart of a new, very early pluripotent state. We compared the transcriptomics profile of this in vivo E3.25-HNC pluripotent state, together with the profiles of E3.25-LNC, E3.5 EPI and E4.5 EPI cells, with the profiles of all embryonic stem cells (ESCs) available in the GEO database from the same platform (over 600 microarrays). The shortest distance between the set of inner cells (E3.25, E3.5 and E4.5) and the ESCs is between the E3.25-HNC cells and 2i + LIF ESCs; thus, the developmental transition from 33 to 34 cells decreases dramatically the distance with the naïve ground state of the 2i + LIF ESCs. We validated the E3.25 events through analysis of scRNA-seq data from early and late 32-cell ICM cells.

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