New research by Greg Findlay’s group in the MRC-PPU has identified a signalling system that controls embryonic stem cell development, which has implications for understanding how tissues form within the mammalian embryo. The paper, by Rosalia Fernandez-Alonso and Francisco Bustos, post-doctoral investigators in Greg’s lab, uncovers a new role for the EPH-Ephrin system in regulating stem cell differentiation. They also identify a molecular switch within the EPH-Ephrin system that distinguishes stem cells from differentiated cells, enabling them to be sorted into distinct populations, a key initiating event in tissue formation.
“Formation of tissues during the development of an embryo is a complex process, which requires both differentiation of stem cells and sorting of the resulting specialised cells” said Greg Findlay, the senior author on this publication. “How these events are actually coordinated is poorly understood. However, our findings in cell culture and in mouse and human embryos shed significant new light on this area. We not only show that EPH-Ephrin signalling controls stem cell differentiation, we also find that EPH-Ephrin specifically tags stem cells and specialised cells so that they can be appropriately sorted into emerging tissues. This provides new insight into the molecular pathways that coordinate the process of tissue formation.
The paper is the result of a close collaboration with scientists from all over Europe, including the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, as well as Houjiang Zhou from the MRC-PPU mass-spectrometry team and Angus Lamond within the School of Life Sciences, Dundee. The work in the Findlay lab was supported by a Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellowship and a MRC New Investigator Research Grant.
You can read a copy of the paper, published in Nature Communications, here: https://rdcu.be/b2U9D