Research Article

A lineage-resolved molecular atlas of C. elegans embryogenesis at single-cell resolution

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Science  05 Sep 2019:
eaax1971
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax1971

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Abstract

Caenorhabditis elegans is an animal with few cells, but a striking diversity of cell types. Here, we characterize the molecular basis for their specification by profiling the transcriptomes of 86,024 single embryonic cells. We identify 502 terminal and pre-terminal cell types, mapping most single-cell transcriptomes to their exact position in C. elegans’ invariant lineage. Using these annotations, we find that: 1) the correlation between a cell’s lineage and its transcriptome increases from mid to late gastrulation, then falls dramatically as cells in the nervous system and pharynx adopt their terminal fates; 2) multilineage priming contributes to the differentiation of sister cells at dozens of lineage branches; and 3) most distinct lineages that produce the same anatomical cell type converge to a homogenous transcriptomic state.

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