A balance between secreted inhibitors and edge sensing controls gastruloid self-organization


  • F. Etoc
  • J. Metzger
  • A. Ruzo
  • C. Kirst
  • A. Yoney
  • M.Z. Ozair
  • A.H. Brivanlou
  • E.D. Siggia


  • Developmental Cell


  • Dev Cell 39 (3): 302-315


  • The earliest aspects of human embryogenesis remain mysterious. To model patterning events in the human embryo, we used colonies of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) grown on micropatterned substrate and differentiated with BMP4. These gastruloids recapitulate the embryonic arrangement of the mammalian germ layers and provide an assay to assess the structural and signaling mechanisms patterning the human gastrula. Structurally, high-density hESCs localize their receptors to transforming growth factor β at their lateral side in the center of the colony while maintaining apical localization of receptors at the edge. This relocalization insulates cells at the center from apically applied ligands while maintaining response to basally presented ones. In addition, BMP4 directly induces the expression of its own inhibitor, NOGGIN, generating a reaction-diffusion mechanism that underlies patterning. We develop a quantitative model that integrates edge sensing and inhibitors to predict human fate positioning in gastruloids and, potentially, the human embryo.