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Dynamic transcriptional symmetry-breaking in pre-implantation mammalian embryo development revealed by single-cell RNA-seq
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During mammalian pre-implantation embryo development, when the first asymmetry emerges and how it develops to direct distinct cell fates remain longstanding questions. Here, by analyzing single-blastomere transcriptome data from mouse and human pre-implantation embryos, we revealed that the initial blastomere-toblastomere biases emerge as early as the first embryonic cleavage division, following a binomial distribution pattern. The subsequent zygotic transcriptional activation further elevated overall blastomere-to-blastomere biases during the two-to 16-cell embryo stages. The trends of transcriptional asymmetry fell into two distinct patterns: for some genes, the extent of asymmetry was minimized between blastomeres (monostable pattern), whereas other genes, including those known to be lineage specifiers, showed ever-increasing asymmetry between blastomeres (bistable pattern), supposedly controlled by negative or positive feedbacks. Moreover, our analysis supports a scenario in which opposing lineage specifiers within an early blastomere constantly compete with each other based on their relative ratio, forming an inclined 'lineage strength' that pushes the blastomere onto a predisposed, yet flexible, lineage track before morphological distinction.