Anteroposterior polarity and elongation in the absence of extraembryonic tissues and spatially localised signalling in Gastruloids, mammalian embryonic organoids

09 Oct 2017

The establishment of the anteroposterior (AP) axis is a critical step during animal embryo development. In mammals, genetic studies have shown that this process relies on signals spatiotemporally deployed in the extraembryonic tissues that locate the position of the head and the onset of gastrulation, marked by T/Brachyury (T/Bra) at the posterior of the embryo. Here, we use Gastruloids, mESC-based organoids, as a model system to study this process. We find that Gastruloids localise T/Bra expression to one end and undergo elongation similar to the posterior region of the embryo suggesting that they develop an AP axis. This process relies on precisely timed interactions between Wnt/β-Catenin and Nodal signalling, whereas BMP signalling is dispensable. Additionally, polarised T/Bra expression occurs in the absence of extraembryonic tissues or localised sources of signals. We suggest that the role of extraembryonic tissues in the mammalian embryo might not be to induce the axes but to bias an intrinsic ability of the embryo to initially break symmetry. Furthermore, we suggest that Wnt signalling has a separable activity involved in the elongation of the axis.