Indexed on: 20 May '14Published on: 20 May '14Published in: Developmental Cell
Cells of the inner cell mass (ICM) of the mouse blastocyst differentiate into the pluripotent epiblast or the primitive endoderm (PrE), marked by the transcription factors NANOG and GATA6, respectively. To investigate the mechanistic regulation of this process, we applied an unbiased, quantitative, single-cell-resolution image analysis pipeline to analyze embryos lacking or exhibiting reduced levels of GATA6. We find that Gata6 mutants exhibit a complete absence of PrE and demonstrate that GATA6 levels regulate the timing and speed of lineage commitment within the ICM. Furthermore, we show that GATA6 is necessary for PrE specification by FGF signaling and propose a model where interactions between NANOG, GATA6, and the FGF/ERK pathway determine ICM cell fate. This study provides a framework for quantitative analyses of mammalian embryos and establishes GATA6 as a nodal point in the gene regulatory network driving ICM lineage specification.