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Aguilera Castrejon Lab / Publications
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15 Publications

Showing 1-10 of 15 results
05/17/24 | Deep-Tissue Spatial Omics: Imaging Whole-Embryo Transcriptomics and Subcellular Structures at High Spatial Resolution
Gandin V, Kim J, Yang L, Lian Y, Kawase T, Hu A, Rokicki K, Fleishman G, Tillberg P, Aguilera Castrejon A, Stringer C, Preibisch S, Liu ZJ
bioRxiv. 2024 May 17:. doi: 10.1101/2024.05.17.594641

The inherent limitations of fluorescence microscopy, notably the restricted number of color channels, have long constrained comprehensive spatial analysis in biological specimens. Here, we introduce cycleHCR technology that leverages multicycle DNA barcoding and Hybridization Chain Reaction (HCR) to surpass the conventional color barrier. cycleHCR facilitates high-specificity, single-shot imaging per target for RNA and protein species within thick specimens, mitigating the molecular crowding issues encountered with other imaging-based spatial omics techniques. We demonstrate whole-mount transcriptomics imaging of 254 genes within an E6.5\~7.0 mouse embryo, achieving precise three-dimensional gene expression and cell fate mapping across a specimen depth of \~ 310 µm. Utilizing expansion microscopy alongside protein cycleHCR, we unveil the complex network of 10 subcellular structures in primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Furthermore, in mouse hippocampal slice, we image 8 protein targets and profile the transcriptome of 120 genes, uncovering complex gene expression gradients and cell-type specific nuclear structural variances. cycleHCR provides a unifying framework for multiplex RNA and protein imaging, offering a quantitative solution for elucidating spatial regulations in deep tissue contexts for research and potentially diagnostic applications.

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09/03/23 | Complete human day 14 post-implantation embryo models from naïve ES cells
Oldak B, Wildschutz E, Bondarenko V, Comar M, Zhao C, Aguilera-Castrejon A, Tarazi S, Viukov S, Pham TX, Ashouokhi S, Lokshtanov D, Roncato F, Ariel E, Rose M, Livnat N, Shani T, Joubran C, Cohen R, Addadi Y, Chemla M, Kedmi M, Keren-Shaul H, Pasque V, Petropoulos S, Lanner F, Novershtern N, Hanna JH
Nature. 09/2023:. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06604-5

The ability to study human post-implantation development remains limited due to ethical and technical challenges associated with intrauterine development after implantation1. Embryo-like models with spatially organized morphogenesis of all defining embryonic and extra-embryonic tissues of the post-implantation human conceptus (i.e., embryonic disk, bilaminar disk, yolk- and chorionic sacs, surrounding trophoblasts) remain lacking2. Mouse naïve embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have recently been shown to give rise to embryonic and extra-embryonic stem cells capable of self-assembling into post-gastrulation mouse Structured Stem cell-based Embryo Models with spatially organized morphogenesis (SEMs)3. Here, we extend these findings to humans, while using only genetically unmodified human naïve ESCs (in HENSM conditions)4. Such human fully integrated SEMs recapitulate the organization of nearly all known lineages and compartments of post-implantation human embryos including epiblast, hypoblast, extra-embryonic mesoderm, and trophoblast surrounding the latter layers. These human complete SEMs demonstrated developmental growth dynamics that resemble key hallmarks of post-implantation stage embryogenesis up to 13-14 days post-fertilization (dpf) (Carnegie stage 6a). This includes embryonic disk and bilaminar disk formation, epiblast lumenogenesis, polarized amniogenesis, anterior-posterior symmetry breaking, PGC specification, polarized yolk sac with visceral and parietal endoderm, extra-embryonic mesoderm expansion that defines a chorionic cavity and a connecting stalk, a trophoblast surrounding compartment demonstrating syncytium and lacunae formation. This SEM platform may enable the experimental interrogation of previously inaccessible windows of human early post-implantation up to peri-gastrulation development.

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12/01/22 | Recent insights into mammalian natural and synthetic ex utero embryogenesis
Bernardo Oldak , Alejandro Aguilera-Castrejon , Jacob H Hanna
Current Opinion in Genetics & Development. 12/2022;77:101988. doi:

Research on early postimplantation mammalian development has been limited by the small size and intrauterine confinement of the developing embryos. Owing to the inability to observe and manipulate living embryos at these stages in utero, the establishment of robust ex utero embryo-culture systems that capture prolonged periods of mouse development has been an important research goal. In the last few years, these methods have been significantly improved by the optimization and enhancement of in vitro culture systems sustaining embryo development during peri-implantation stages for several species, and more recently, proper growth of natural mouse embryos from pregastrulation to late organogenesis stages and of embryonic stem cell (ES)-derived synthetic embryo models until early organogenesis stages. Here, we discuss the most recent ex utero embryo-culture systems established to date for rodents, nonhuman primates, and humans. We emphasize their technical aspects and developmental timeframe and provide insights into the new opportunities that these methods will contribute to the study of natural and synthetic mammalian embryogenesis and the stem-cell field.

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11/08/22 | Human primed and naïve PSCs are both able to differentiate into trophoblast stem cells.
Viukov S, Shani T, Bayerl J, Aguilera-Castrejon A, Oldak B, Sheban D, Tarazi S, Stelzer Y, Hanna JH, Novershtern N
Stem Cell Reports. 11/2022;17(11):2484-2500. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2022.09.008

The recent derivation of human trophoblast stem cells (TSCs) from placental cytotrophoblasts and blastocysts opened opportunities for studying the development and function of the human placenta. Recent reports have suggested that human naïve, but not primed, pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) retain an exclusive potential to generate TSCs. Here we report that, in the absence of WNT stimulation, transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) pathway inhibition leads to direct and robust conversion of primed human PSCs into TSCs. The resulting primed PSC-derived TSC lines exhibit self-renewal, can differentiate into the main trophoblast lineages, and present RNA and epigenetic profiles that are indistinguishable from recently established TSC lines derived from human placenta, blastocysts, or isogenic human naïve PSCs expanded under human enhanced naïve stem cell medium (HENSM) conditions. Activation of nuclear Yes-associated protein (YAP) signaling is sufficient for this conversion and necessary for human TSC maintenance. Our findings underscore a residual plasticity in primed human PSCs that allows their in vitro conversion into extra-embryonic trophoblast lineages.

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10/06/22 | Embryo model completes gastrulation to neurulation and organogenesis.
Amadei G, Handford CE, Qiu C, De Jonghe J, Greenfeld H, Tran M, Martin BK, Chen D, Aguilera-Castrejon A, Hanna JH, Elowitz MB, Hollfelder F, Shendure J, Glover DM, Zernicka-Goetz M
Nature. 10/2022;610(7930):143-153. doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-05246-3

Embryonic stem (ES) cells can undergo many aspects of mammalian embryogenesis in vitro, but their developmental potential is substantially extended by interactions with extraembryonic stem cells, including trophoblast stem (TS) cells, extraembryonic endoderm stem (XEN) cells and inducible XEN (iXEN) cells. Here we assembled stem cell-derived embryos in vitro from mouse ES cells, TS cells and iXEN cells and showed that they recapitulate the development of whole natural mouse embryo in utero up to day 8.5 post-fertilization. Our embryo model displays headfolds with defined forebrain and midbrain regions and develops a beating heart-like structure, a trunk comprising a neural tube and somites, a tail bud containing neuromesodermal progenitors, a gut tube, and primordial germ cells. This complete embryo model develops within an extraembryonic yolk sac that initiates blood island development. Notably, we demonstrate that the neurulating embryo model assembled from Pax6-knockout ES cells aggregated with wild-type TS cells and iXEN cells recapitulates the ventral domain expansion of the neural tube that occurs in natural, ubiquitous Pax6-knockout embryos. Thus, these complete embryoids are a powerful in vitro model for dissecting the roles of diverse cell lineages and genes in development. Our results demonstrate the self-organization ability of ES cells and two types of extraembryonic stem cells to reconstitute mammalian development through and beyond gastrulation to neurulation and early organogenesis.

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09/01/22 | Post-gastrulation synthetic embryos generated ex utero from mouse naive ESCs
Shadi Tarazi , Alejandro Aguilera-Castrejon , Carine Joubran , Nadir Ghanem , Shahd Ashouokhi , Francesco Roncato , Emilie Wildschutz , Montaser Haddad , Bernardo Oldak , Elidet Gomez-Cesar , Nir Livnat , Sergey Viukov , Dmitry Lokshtanov , Segev Naveh-Tassa , Max Rose , Suhair Hanna , Calanit Raanan , Ori Brenner , Merav Kedmi , Hadas Keren-Shaul , Tsvee Lapidot , Itay Maza , Noa Novershtern , Jacob H. Hanna
Cell. 09/2022;185:3290-3306.e25. doi:

Summary In vitro cultured stem cells with distinct developmental capacities can contribute to embryonic or extraembryonic tissues after microinjection into pre-implantation mammalian embryos. However, whether cultured stem cells can independently give rise to entire gastrulating embryo-like structures with embryonic and extraembryonic compartments remains unknown. Here, we adapt a recently established platform for prolonged ex utero growth of natural embryos to generate mouse post-gastrulation synthetic whole embryo models (sEmbryos), with both embryonic and extraembryonic compartments, starting solely from naive ESCs. This was achieved by co-aggregating non-transduced ESCs, with naive ESCs transiently expressing Cdx2 or Gata4 to promote their priming toward trophectoderm and primitive endoderm lineages, respectively. sEmbryos adequately accomplish gastrulation, advance through key developmental milestones, and develop organ progenitors within complex extraembryonic compartments similar to E8.5 stage mouse embryos. Our findings highlight the plastic potential of naive pluripotent cells to self-organize and functionally reconstitute and model the entire mammalian embryo beyond gastrulation.

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01/06/22 | SUMOylation of linker histone H1 drives chromatin condensation and restriction of embryonic cell fate identity
Daoud Sheban , Tom Shani , Roey Maor , Alejandro Aguilera-Castrejon , Nofar Mor , Bernardo Oldak , Merav D. Shmueli , Avital Eisenberg-Lerner , Jonathan Bayerl , Jakob Hebert , Sergey Viukov , Guoyun Chen , Assaf Kacen , Vladislav Krupalnik , Valeriya Chugaeva , Shadi Tarazi , Alejandra Rodríguez-delaRosa , Mirie Zerbib , Adi Ulman , Solaiman Masarwi , Meital Kupervaser , Yishai Levin , Efrat Shema , Yael David , Noa Novershtern , Jacob H. Hanna , Yifat Merbl
Molecular Cell. 01/2022;82:106-122.e9. doi:

Summary The fidelity of the early embryonic program is underlined by tight regulation of the chromatin. Yet, how the chromatin is organized to prohibit the reversal of the developmental program remains unclear. Specifically, the totipotency-to-pluripotency transition marks one of the most dramatic events to the chromatin, and yet, the nature of histone alterations underlying this process is incompletely characterized. Here, we show that linker histone H1 is post-translationally modulated by SUMO2/3, which facilitates its fixation onto ultra-condensed heterochromatin in embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Upon SUMOylation depletion, the chromatin becomes de-compacted and H1 is evicted, leading to totipotency reactivation. Furthermore, we show that H1 and SUMO2/3 jointly mediate the repression of totipotent elements. Lastly, we demonstrate that preventing SUMOylation on H1 abrogates its ability to repress the totipotency program in ESCs. Collectively, our findings unravel a critical role for SUMOylation of H1 in facilitating chromatin repression and desolation of the totipotent identity.

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10/19/21 | Ex Utero Culture of Mouse Embryos from Pregastrulation to Advanced Organogenesis.
Aguilera-Castrejon A, Hanna JH
J Vis Exp. 10/2021(176):. doi: 10.3791/63160

Postimplantation mammalian embryo culture methods have been generally inefficient and limited to brief periods after dissection out of the uterus. Platforms have been recently developed for highly robust and prolonged ex utero culture of mouse embryos from egg-cylinder stages until advanced organogenesis. These platforms enable appropriate and faithful development of pregastrulating embryos (E5.5) until the hind limb formation stage (E11). Late gastrulating embryos (E7.5) are grown in rotating bottles in these settings, while extended culture from pregastrulation stages (E5.5 or E6.5) requires a combination of static and rotating bottle cultures. In addition, sensitive regulation of O2 and CO2 concentration, gas pressure, glucose levels, and the use of a specific ex utero culture medium are critical for proper embryo development. Here, a detailed step-by-step protocol for extended ex utero mouse embryo culture is provided. The ability to grow normal mouse embryos ex utero from gastrulation to organogenesis represents a valuable tool for characterizing the effect of different experimental perturbations during embryonic development.

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09/02/21 | Principles of signaling pathway modulation for enhancing human naive pluripotency induction.
Bayerl J, Ayyash M, Shani T, Manor YS, Gafni O, Massarwa R, Kalma Y, Aguilera-Castrejon A, Zerbib M, Amir H, Sheban D, Geula S, Mor N, Weinberger L, Naveh Tassa S, Krupalnik V, Oldak B, Livnat N, Tarazi S, Tawil S, Wildschutz E, Ashouokhi S, Lasman L, Rotter V, Hanna S, Ben-Yosef D, Novershtern N, Viukov S, Hanna JH
Cell Stem Cell. 09/2021;28(9):1549-1565.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2021.04.001

Isolating human MEK/ERK signaling-independent pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) with naive pluripotency characteristics while maintaining differentiation competence and (epi)genetic integrity remains challenging. Here, we engineer reporter systems that allow the screening for defined conditions that induce molecular and functional features of human naive pluripotency. Synergistic inhibition of WNT/β-CATENIN, protein kinase C (PKC), and SRC signaling consolidates the induction of teratoma-competent naive human PSCs, with the capacity to differentiate into trophoblast stem cells (TSCs) and extraembryonic naive endodermal (nEND) cells in vitro. Divergent signaling and transcriptional requirements for boosting naive pluripotency were found between mouse and human. P53 depletion in naive hPSCs increased their contribution to mouse-human cross-species chimeric embryos upon priming and differentiation. Finally, MEK/ERK inhibition can be substituted with the inhibition of NOTCH/RBPj, which induces alternative naive-like hPSCs with a diminished risk for deleterious global DNA hypomethylation. Our findings set a framework for defining the signaling foundations of human naive pluripotency.

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05/05/21 | Ex utero mouse embryogenesis from pre-gastrulation to late organogenesis.
Aguilera-Castrejon A, Oldak B, Shani T, Ghanem N, Itzkovich C, Slomovich S, Tarazi S, Bayerl J, Chugaeva V, Ayyash M, Ashouokhi S, Sheban D, Livnat N, Lasman L, Viukov S, Zerbib M, Addadi Y, Rais Y, Cheng S, Stelzer Y, Keren-Shaul H, Shlomo R, Massarwa R, Novershtern N, Maza I, Hanna JH
Nature. 05/2021;593(7857):119-124. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03416-3

The mammalian body plan is established shortly after the embryo implants into the maternal uterus, and our understanding of post-implantation developmental processes remains limited. Although pre- and peri-implantation mouse embryos are routinely cultured in vitro, approaches for the robust culture of post-implantation embryos from egg cylinder stages until advanced organogenesis remain to be established. Here we present highly effective platforms for the ex utero culture of post-implantation mouse embryos, which enable the appropriate development of embryos from before gastrulation (embryonic day (E) 5.5) until the hindlimb formation stage (E11). Late gastrulating embryos (E7.5) are grown in three-dimensional rotating bottles, whereas extended culture from pre-gastrulation stages (E5.5 or E6.5) requires a combination of static and rotating bottle culture platforms. Histological, molecular and single-cell RNA sequencing analyses confirm that the ex utero cultured embryos recapitulate in utero development precisely. This culture system is amenable to the introduction of a variety of embryonic perturbations and micro-manipulations, the results of which can be followed ex utero for up to six days. The establishment of a system for robustly growing normal mouse embryos ex utero from pre-gastrulation to advanced organogenesis represents a valuable tool for investigating embryogenesis, as it eliminates the uterine barrier and allows researchers to mechanistically interrogate post-implantation morphogenesis and artificial embryogenesis in mammals.

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