Quantitative analysis of transcriptome dynamics provides novel insights into developmental state transitions

Kristin Johnson, Simon Freedman, Rosemary Braun, Carole LaBonne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: During embryogenesis, the developmental potential of initially pluripotent cells becomes progressively restricted as they transit to lineage restricted states. The pluripotent cells of Xenopus blastula-stage embryos are an ideal system in which to study cell state transitions during developmental decision-making, as gene expression dynamics can be followed at high temporal resolution. Results: Here we use transcriptomics to interrogate the process by which pluripotent cells transit to four different lineage-restricted states: neural progenitors, epidermis, endoderm and ventral mesoderm, providing quantitative insights into the dynamics of Waddington’s landscape. Our findings provide novel insights into why the neural progenitor state is the default lineage state for pluripotent cells and uncover novel components of lineage-specific gene regulation. These data reveal an unexpected overlap in the transcriptional responses to BMP4/7 and Activin signaling and provide mechanistic insight into how the timing of signaling inputs such as BMP are temporally controlled to ensure correct lineage decisions. Conclusions: Together these analyses provide quantitative insights into the logic and dynamics of developmental decision making in early embryos. They also provide valuable lineage-specific time series data following the acquisition of specific lineage states during development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number723
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Activin
  • BMP
  • Epidermal
  • Mesendoderm
  • Neural
  • Neural default model
  • Pluripotency
  • Smads
  • Xenopus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Biotechnology


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