Chromosome instability and aneuploidies occur very frequently in human embryos, impairing proper embryogenesis and leading to cell cycle arrest, loss of cell viability, and developmental failures in 50–80% of cleavage-stage embryos. This high frequency of cellular extinction events represents a significant experimental obstacle challenging analyses of individual cells isolated from human preimplantation embryos. We carried out single cell expression profiling of 241 individual cells recovered from 32 human embryos during the early and late stages of viable human blastocyst (VHB) differentiation. Classification of embryonic cells was performed solely based on expression patterns of human pluripotency-associated transcripts (HPAT), which represent a family of primate-specific transposable element-derived lincRNAs highly expressed in human embryonic stem cells and regulating nuclear reprogramming and pluripotency induction. We then validated our findings by analyzing transcriptomes of 1,708 individual cells recovered from more than 100 human embryos and 259 mouse cells from more than 40 mouse embryos at different stages of preimplantation embryogenesis. HPAT's expression-guided spatiotemporal reconstruction of human embryonic development inferred from single-cell expression analysis of VHB differentiation enabled identification of telomerase-positive embryonic cells co-expressing key pluripotency regulatory genes and genetic markers of three major lineages. Follow-up validation analyses confirmed the emergence in human embryos prior to lineage segregation of telomerase-positive cells co-expressing genetic markers of multiple lineages. Observations reported in this contribution support the hypothesis of a developmental pathway of creation embryonic lineages and extraembryonic tissues from telomerase-positive pre-lineage cells manifesting multi-lineage precursor phenotype.
- Developmental biology
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