Control of cell state transitions.
Understanding cell state transitions and purposefully controlling them is a longstanding challenge in biology. Here we present cell state transition assessment and regulation (cSTAR), an approach for mapping cell states, modelling transitions between them and predicting targeted interventions to convert cell fate decisions. cSTAR uses omics data as input, classifies cell states, and develops a workflow that transforms the input data into mechanistic models that identify a core signalling network, which controls cell fate transitions by influencing whole-cell networks. By integrating signalling and phenotypic data, cSTAR models how cells manoeuvre in Waddington's landscape and make decisions about which cell fate to adopt. Notably, cSTAR devises interventions to control the movement of cells in Waddington's landscape. Testing cSTAR in a cellular model of differentiation and proliferation shows a high correlation between quantitative predictions and experimental data. Applying cSTAR to different types of perturbation and omics datasets, including single-cell data, demonstrates its flexibility and scalability and provides new biological insights. The ability of cSTAR to identify targeted perturbations that interconvert cell fates will enable designer approaches for manipulating cellular development pathways and mechanistically underpinned therapeutic interventions.
Independent origins of fetal liver haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells.
Self-renewal and differentiation are tightly controlled to maintain haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) homeostasis in the adult bone marrow. During fetal development, expansion of HSCs (self-renewal) and production of differentiated haematopoietic cells (differentiation) are both required to sustain the haematopoietic system for body growth. However, it remains unclear how these two seemingly opposing tasks are accomplished within the short embryonic period. Here we used in vivo genetic tracing in mice to analyse the formation of HSCs and progenitors from intra-arterial haematopoietic clusters, which contain HSC precursors and express the transcription factor hepatic leukaemia factor (HLF). Through kinetic study, we observed the simultaneous formation of HSCs and defined progenitors-previously regarded as descendants of HSCs-from the HLF precursor population, followed by prompt formation of the hierarchical haematopoietic population structure in the fetal liver in an HSC-independent manner. The transcription factor EVI1 is heterogeneously expressed within the precursor population, with EVI1 cells being predominantly localized to intra-embryonic arteries and preferentially giving rise to HSCs. By genetically manipulating EVI1 expression, we were able to alter HSC and progenitor output from precursors in vivo. Using fate tracking, we also demonstrated that fetal HSCs are slowly used to produce short-term HSCs at late gestation. These data suggest that fetal HSCs minimally contribute to the generation of progenitors and functional blood cells before birth. Stem cell-independent pathways during development thus offer a rational strategy for the rapid and simultaneous growth of tissues and stem cell pools.