Pluripotent stem cell studies elucidate the underlying mechanisms of early embryonic development

Genes
Lingyu Li, Naihe Jing

Abstract

Early embryonic development is a multi-step process that is intensively regulated by various signaling pathways. Because of the complexity of the embryo and the interactions between the germ layers, it is very difficult to fully understand how these signals regulate embryo patterning. Recently, pluripotent stem cell lines derived from different developmental stages have provided an in vitro system for investigating molecular mechanisms regulating cell fate decisions. In this review, we summarize the major functions of the BMP, FGF, Nodal and Wnt signaling pathways, which have well-established roles in vertebrate embryogenesis. Then, we highlight recent studies in pluripotent stem cells that have revealed the stage-specific roles of BMP,FGF and Nodal pathways during neural differentiation. These findings enhance our understanding of the stepwise regulation of embryo patterning by particular signaling pathways and provide new insight into the mechanisms underlying early embryonic development.

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