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Deciphering cell lineage specification during male sex determination with single-cell RNA sequencing

By Isabelle Stévant, Yasmine Neirjinck, Christelle Borel, Jessica Escoffier, Lee B. Smith, Stylianos E. Antonarakis, Emmanouil T Dermitzakis, Serge Nef

Posted 18 Sep 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/190264 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.01.043)

The gonad is a unique biological system for studying cell fate decisions. However, major questions remain regarding the identity of somatic progenitor cells and the transcriptional events driving cell differentiation. Using time course single cell RNA sequencing on XY mouse gonads during sex determination, we identified a single population of somatic progenitor cells prior sex determination. A subset of these progenitors differentiate into Sertoli cells, a process characterized by a highly dynamic genetic program consisting of sequential waves of gene expression. Another subset of multipotent cells maintains their progenitor state but undergo significant transcriptional changes that restrict their competence towards a steroidogenic fate required for the differentiation of fetal Leydig cells. These results question the dogma of the existence of two distinct somatic cell lineages at the onset of sex determination and propose a new model of lineage specification from a unique progenitor cell population.

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