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Developmental biology and regeneration

To add to the 70th anniversary celebrations of the British Developmental Biology Society, Nature Communications would like to highlight some of our developmental biology papers published in the journal. This follows themes of the conference, namely, early embryonic development, tissue and organ development, and regeneration/progress in stem cell development. Furthermore, we showcase papers published in the journal by many of the speakers at this conference.

Speaker publications in Nature Communications

Microglia cells in the brain regulate immune responses, but in ageing can negatively affect brain function. Here the authors show that the chronic presence of type I interferon in aged mouse brain impedes cognitive ability by altering microglia transcriptome and limiting Mef2C, a microglia ‘off’ signal.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Neural crest cells arise within the central nervous system, then migrate and contribute to a variety of cell types. Here, the authors use multiplex transcript analysis at single cell  resolution to define neural crest and neural subpopulations within the avian neural tube, including a neural crest stem cell niche.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

A better understanding of the earliest stages of human cancer formation can enable future improvements in early detection, diagnosis and treatment. In this review, the authors summarize the methods enabling de novo tumorigenesis protocols to be applied to human cells and the insights derived from them to date, as well as the exciting and relevant technical developments anticipated to extend even further the utility of these strategies.

Review Article | open | | Nature Communications

“Variation in the noncoding regulatory sequences in the genome plays important roles in human disease and evolution. Here, the authors use F1 mouse hybrids to shed light on the regulatory mechanisms mediating transcription factor binding, chromatin state and gene expression in mammalian cells.”

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Keratin 16 is an epithelial protein highly expressed at pressure bearing sites and during wound healing and cancer. Here the authors show that K16 interacts with the inactive protease Rhbdf2, associated with Tylosis with oesophageal cancer, and that this interaction drives increased keratinocyte proliferation.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Lateral root development is dependent on precise control of the distribution of the plant hormone auxin. Here Chen et al. propose the transcription factors ARF7 and FLP participate in a feed forward motif to mediate expression of the auxin transporter PIN3 and consequently regulate lateral root development.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

In the mouse embryo, anterior-posterior polarity is established by distal visceral endoderm (DVE) at embryonic day 5.5 but how this arises is unclear. Here, the authors show that expression of Lefty1 earlier can define DVE, and that future DVE cells are selected by Nodal signalling and stochasticity.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

X-chromosome inactivation is reversed in the mouse inner cell mass (ICM) through a mechanism that is not fully understood. Here, the authors investigate this process and characterize the contributions of the epigenetic landscape and transcription factors in X-linked gene reactivation dynamics.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Xist RNA is required for X chromosome inactivation but it is not well understood how Xist silences some regions more efficiently than others. Here, the authors induce ectopic Xist expression from multiple different X-linked and autosomal loci in cells to explore Xist function.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Although protein tyrosine kinases are being explored as antifibrotic agents for the treatment of systemic sclerosis, little is known about the function of counteractive protein tyrosine phosphatases in this context. Here, the authors show that PTP4A1 is highly expressed by fibroblasts from patients with systemic sclerosis and promotes TGFβ activity via SRC–ERK–SMAD3 signaling.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Human WNT10A mutations are associated with dental defects and adult onset ectodermal dysplasia. Xu et al. show that WNT10A-activated ß-catenin plays dual roles in adult epithelial progenitor proliferation and differentiation by complexing with KLF4 in differentiating, but not proliferating, cells.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

The use of stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes for heart repair is hampered by their immature structural and contractile properties that may cause arrhythmia. Here, Eng et al. show that electrical conditioning of human cardiomyocytes in 3D culture can enhance connectivity and provide resistance to arrhythmia.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

The TOR and insulin/IGF signalling (IIS) network are central responses to wound healing. Here the authors develop a technique of live imaging of laser-induced epidermal wounds to flies and show that TOR and IIS are independently required for wound healing, which may have implications for diabetic wound healing and its treatment.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Retinoic acid (RA) regulates the maintenance of somitogenesis symmetry. Here, the authors use a proteomic approach to identify a protein complex of Wdr5, Hdac1, Hdac2 that act together with RA and coactivator Rere/Atrophin2 and a histone methyltransferase Ehmt2 to regulate embryonic symmetry.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

The role of stem/progenitor cell populations in mammary gland morphogenesis is not well understood. Here, the authors show that a transcriptional repressor, Blimp1, is expressed in a rare luminal stem cell population, which contribute to duct formation, and survive multiple rounds of pregnancy and involution.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Mouse digit patterning is controlled by a Turing network of Bmp, Sox9, and Wnt. Here, Onimaru et al. show that fin patterning in the catshark, Scyliorhinus canicula, is controlled by the same network with a different spatial organization; thus, the Turing network is deeply conserved in limb development.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Biomphalaria glabrata is a fresh water snail that acts as a host for trematode Schistosoma mansoni that causes intestinal infection in human. This work describes the genome and transcriptome analyses from 12 different tissues of B glabrata, and identify genes for snail behavior and evolution.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Chemical screens can identify small molecules that affect biological development, with potential therapeutic value. Here, the authors use a modular approach in a screen in zebrafish embryos, varying concentration, genotype and timing to target segmentation disorders, birth defects that affect the spinal column.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

The mechanistic coupling of cell growth and cell cycle control with cell size regulation in tissues is not well understood. Here, the authors show that within the shoot apical meristem of Arabidopsis cell size depends on developmental stage, genotype and environmental signals; however cell growth and cell division are cell-autonomously coordinated.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Deep sequencing technologies allow for the investigation of clonal evolution in human cancers. Here the authors, combining sequencing data from human skin with mathematical modelling and simulations, suggest that the spatial context of a mutation with respect to other mutant clones may lead to differential clonal evolution.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Embryonic development

Commitment to different fates by differentiating pluripotent cells depends upon integration of external and internal signals. Here the authors analyse the entry of mouse embryonic stem cells into retinoic acid-mediated differentiation using single cell transcriptomics with high temporal resolution.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

The molecular trigger that establishes cell polarity in the mammalian embryo is unclear. Here, the authors show that de novo polarisation of the mouse embryo at the 8-cell stage is directed by Phospholipase C and Protein kinase C and occurs in two phases: polarisation of actomyosin followed by the Par complex.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

In the Drosophila ovary, it is unclear how signalling from the stem cell niche regulates follicle precursor cell fate/differentiation. Here, the authors use quantitative microscopy to define the role of Wnt, Hedgehog and Notch signalling in progenitor cells, showing regulation of cell fate and differentiation.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are key regulators of lineage specification during development. Here, the authors investigate remodeling of enhancers and regulation of the lncRNA transcriptome during mesendoderm specification, and identify a pluripotent stage-specific transcribed enhancer controlling adoption of the mesendodermal cell fate.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Derivation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) produces primed hiPSCs that can in turn be converted to naive hiPSCs. Here, the authors directly reprogram somatic cells to form both naive and primed isogenic hiPSCs and confirm the similarity of naive hiPSCs to their in vivo counterparts.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

The neuroectoderm is patterned in a rostral-caudal axis in the embryo but how positional information is interpreted, is unclear. Here, the authors show that in mouse 3D embryonic stem cell cultures, there is self-patterning that depends on sequential activation of localised Fgf then Wnt signalling.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Advanced maternal age has been associated with lower reproductive success and higher risk of pregnancy complications. Here the authors show that maternal ageing-related embryonic abnormalities in mouse are caused by decidualisation and placentation defects that can be rescued by transferring the embryo from an old to a young uterus.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Tissue/organ development

The pancreas arises from a small population of cells but how individual cells contribute to organ formation is unclear. Here, the authors deconstruct pancreas organogenesis into clonal units, showing that single progenitors give rise to heterogeneous multi-lineage and endocrinogenic single-lineage clones.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Cell fusion regulates several physiological events, for example, fusion of myoblasts in skeletal muscle formation, but it is unclear if this process occurs in the heart. Here, the authors use transgenic reporters in zebrafish to show transient cardiomyocyte fusion, modulating cardiac development and function.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Priming of the adult mouse heart with Tβ4 activates dormant epicardium-derived cells to aid repair of injured myocardium. Here, Vieira et al. explain this process and show that Tβ4 binds a chromatin remodeller BRG1 and activates Wt1, the key regulator of epicardial epithelial-to-mesenchymal transformation, by altering the epigenetic landscape of the Wt1 locus.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

How neurons and neuronal activity regulate astrocyte functions is poorly understood. Hasel et al. identify two large groups of astrocytic genes that are regulated by neuronal contact and synaptic activity respectively, with distinct roles in astrocytic function; interestingly, many of these genes are dysregulated in neurodegeneration.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Regeneration

Planarian regenerative mechanisms suggest that muscle has an instructive role in patterning. Here, the authors show that muscle is also responsible for regenerative patterning information in an early-branching bilaterian, Hofstenia miamia, dating this back to the dawn of the Bilateria, over 550 million years ago.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Some wounds trigger regeneration, while others simply heal but how this is regulated is unclear. Here, by manipulating ERK and Wnt signalling pathways, the authors create headless planarians and finless zebrafish and show that wounds that normally only trigger wound healing can activate regeneration of heads and bones.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Following spinal injury in zebrafish, non-neural cells establish an extracellular matrix to promote axon re-growth but how this is regulated is unclear. Here, the authors show that Wnt/β-catenin signaling in fibroblast-like cells at a lesion activates axon re-growth via deposition of Collagen XII.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) self-renewal is not sufficiently understood to recapitulate in vitro. Here, the authors generate gene signature and cell cycle hallmarks of single murine HSCs, and use identified endothelial receptors Esam and JamC as substrates to enhance HSC growth in engineered niches.

Article | open | | Nature Communications