A single-cell time-lapse of mouse prenatal development from gastrula to birth

Chengxiang Qiu**, Beth K Martin, Ian C Welsh, Riza M Daza, Truc-Mai Le, Xingfan Huang, Eva K Nichols, Megan L Taylor, Olivia Fulton, Diana R O’Day, Anne Roshella Gomes, Saskia Ilcisin, Sanjay Srivatsan, Xinxian Deng, Christine M Disteche, William Stafford Noble, Nobuhiko Hamazaki, Cecilia B Moens, David Kimelman, Junyue Cao, Alexander F Schier, Malte Spielmann, Stephen A Murray, Cole Trapnell, Jay Shendure**
Nature (2024)

# co-corresponding authors


The house mouse (Mus musculus) is an exceptional model system, combining genetic tractability with close evolutionary affinity to humans. Mouse gestation lasts only 3 weeks, during which the genome orchestrates the astonishing transformation of a single-cell zygote into a free-living pup composed of more than 500 million cells. Here, to establish a global framework for exploring mammalian development, we applied optimized single-cell combinatorial indexing to profile the transcriptional states of 12.4 million nuclei from 83 embryos, precisely staged at 2- to 6-hour intervals spanning late gastrulation (embryonic day 8) to birth (postnatal day 0). From these data, we annotate hundreds of cell types and explore the ontogenesis of the posterior embryo during somitogenesis and of kidney, mesenchyme, retina and early neurons. We leverage the temporal resolution and sampling depth of these whole-embryo snapshots, together with published data from earlier timepoints, to construct a rooted tree of cell-type relationships that spans the entirety of prenatal development, from zygote to birth. Throughout this tree, we systematically nominate genes encoding transcription factors and other proteins as candidate drivers of the in vivo differentiation of hundreds of cell types. Remarkably, the most marked temporal shifts in cell states are observed within one hour of birth and presumably underlie the massive physiological adaptations that must accompany the successful transition of a mammalian fetus to life outside the womb.