Nature, Vol.577, No.7791, 537-+, 2020
A developmental landscape of 3D-cultured human pre-gastrulation embryos
Our understanding of how human embryos develop before gastrulation, including spatial self-organization and cell type ontogeny, remains limited by available two-dimensional technological platforms(1,2) that do not recapitulate the in vivo conditions(3-5). Here we report a three-dimensional (3D) blastocyst-culture system that enables human blastocyst development up to the primitive streak anlage stage. These 3D embryos mimic developmental landmarks and 3D architectures in vivo, including the embryonic disc, amnion, basement membrane, primary and primate unique secondary yolk sac, formation of anterior-posterior polarity and primitive streak anlage. Using single-cell transcriptome profiling, we delineate ontology and regulatory networks that underlie the segregation of epiblast, primitive endoderm and trophoblast. Compared with epiblasts, the amniotic epithelium shows unique and characteristic phenotypes. After implantation, specific pathways and transcription factors trigger the differentiation of cytotrophoblasts, extravillous cytotrophoblasts and syncytiotrophoblasts. Epiblasts undergo a transition to pluripotency upon implantation, and the transcriptome of these cells is maintained until the generation of the primitive streak anlage. These developmental processes are driven by different pluripotency factors. Together, findings from our 3D-culture approach help to determine the molecular and morphogenetic developmental landscape that occurs during human embryogenesis. A 3D culture system to model human embryonic development, together with single-cell transcriptome profiling, provides insights into the molecular developmental landscape during human post-implantation embryogenesis.