The mechanisms underlying the appearance of asymmetry between cells in the early embryo and consequently the specification of distinct cell lineages during mammalian development remain elusive. Recent experimental advances have revealed unexpected dynamics of and new complexity in this process. These findings can be integrated in a new unified framework that regards the early mammalian embryo as a self-organizing system.
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The authors would like to thank A. Aulehla, M. Heisler, W. Huber, B. D. Simons and the members of the Hiiragi laboratory for critical reading of the manuscript and helpful discussion. They apologize to colleagues whose work could not be cited owing to space limitations. Work in the Hiiragi laboratory has been supported by the Max Planck Society, European Research Council under the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (EU-FP7), Stem Cell Network North Rhine Westphalia, German Research Foundation (DFG) and the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI), Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan. Work in the Nédélec laboratory has been supported by EU-FP7 network Systems Microscopy (grant 258068) and EU-FP7 project MitoSys (grant 241548).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Wennekamp, S., Mesecke, S., Nédélec, F. et al. A self-organization framework for symmetry breaking in the mammalian embryo. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 14, 452–459 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrm3602
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