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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Scientific Reports

Volume 6, August 2016, Article number 31623.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1038/srep31623. Copyright © Nature Publishing Group


Embryonic stem cells can spontaneously differentiate into cell types of all germ layers within embryoid bodies (EBs) in a highly variable manner. Whether there exists an intrinsic differentiation program common to all EBs is unknown. Here, we present a novel combination of high-throughput live two-photon imaging and gene expression profiling to study early differentiation dynamics spontaneously occurring within developing EBs. Onset timing of Brachyury-GFP was highly variable across EBs, while the spatial patterns as well as the dynamics of mesendodermal progression following onset were remarkably similar. We therefore defined a 'developmental clock' using the Brachyury-GFP signal onset timing. Mapping snapshot gene expression measurements to this clock revealed their temporal trends, indicating that loss of pluripotency, formation of primitive streak and mesodermal lineage progression are synchronized in EBs. Exogenous activation of Wnt or BMP signaling accelerated the intrinsic clock. CHIR down-regulated Wnt3, allowing insights into dependency mechanisms between canonical Wnt signaling and multiple genes. Our findings reveal a developmental clock characteristic of an early differentiation program common to all EBs, further establishing them as an in vitro developmental model.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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