Epigenetic regulator function through mouse gastrulation


  • S. Grosswendt
  • H. Kretzmer
  • Z.D. Smith
  • A.S. Kumar
  • S. Hetzel
  • L. Wittler
  • S. Klages
  • B. Timmermann
  • S. Mukherji
  • A. Meissner


  • Nature


  • Nature 584 (7819): 102-108


  • During ontogeny, proliferating cells become restricted in their fate through the combined action of cell-type-specific transcription factors and ubiquitous epigenetic machinery, which recognizes universally available histone residues or nucleotides in a context-dependent manner. The molecular functions of these regulators are generally well understood, but assigning direct developmental roles to them is hampered by complex mutant phenotypes that often emerge after gastrulation. Single-cell RNA sequencing and analytical approaches have explored this highly conserved, dynamic period across numerous model organisms, including mouse. Here we advance these strategies using a combined zygotic perturbation and single-cell RNA-sequencing platform in which many mutant mouse embryos can be assayed simultaneously, recovering robust morphological and transcriptional information across a panel of ten essential regulators. Deeper analysis of central Polycomb repressive complex (PRC) 1 and 2 components indicates substantial cooperativity, but distinguishes a dominant role for PRC2 in restricting the germline. Moreover, PRC mutant phenotypes emerge after gross epigenetic and transcriptional changes within the initial conceptus prior to gastrulation. Our experimental framework may eventually lead to a fully quantitative view of how cellular diversity emerges using an identical genetic template and from a single totipotent cell.