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Early developmental asymmetries in cell lineage trees in living individuals

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Science  19 Mar 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6535, pp. 1245-1248
DOI: 10.1126/science.abe0981

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Genomic sleuthing spots early divergence

After fertilization, the human zygote divides into two cells. Fasching et al. used genomic analysis from cellular samples taken much later in development to back-calculate the cell division trees that went before. Although the first cell division in human development looks symmetrical from the outside, the fates followed by daughter cells from each of those first two blastomeres are anything but the same. As much as 90% of blood cells are derived from just one of the first two blastomeres.

Science, this issue p. 1245

Abstract

Mosaic mutations can be used to track cell lineages in humans. We used cell cloning to analyze embryonic cell lineages in two living individuals and a postmortem human specimen. Of 10 reconstructed postzygotic divisions, none resulted in balanced contributions of daughter lineages to tissues. In both living individuals, one of two lineages from the first cleavage was dominant across tissues, with 90% frequency in blood. We propose that the efficiency of DNA repair contributes to lineage imbalance. Allocation of lineages in postmortem brain correlated with anterior-posterior axis, associating lineage history with cell fate choices in embryos. We establish a minimally invasive framework for defining cell lineages in any living individual, which paves the way for studying their relevance in health and disease.

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