Extensive phylogenies of human development inferred from somatic mutations.

Tim H H CoorensMichael R Stratton


Starting from the zygote, all cells in the human body continuously acquire mutations. Mutations shared between different cells imply a common progenitor and are thus naturally occurring markers for lineage tracing1,2. Here we reconstruct extensive phylogenies of normal tissues from three adult individuals using whole-genome sequencing of 511 laser capture microdissections. Reconstructed embryonic progenitors in the same generation of a phylogeny often contribute to different extents to the adult body. The degree of this asymmetry varies between individuals, with ratios between the two reconstructed daughter cells of the zygote ranging from 60:40 to 93:7. Asymmetries pervade subsequent generations and can differ between tissues in the same individual. The phylogenies resolve the spatial embryonic patterning of tissues, revealing contiguous patches of, on average, 301 crypts in the adult colonic epithelium derived from a most recent embryonic cell and also a spatial effect in brain development. Using data from ten additional men, we investigated the developmental split between soma and germline, with results suggesting an extraembryonic contribution to primordial germ cells. This research demonstrates that, despite reaching the s...Continue Reading


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