Self-organization of human dorsal-ventral forebrain structures by light induced SHH

Riccardo De Santis, Fred Etoc, Edwin A. Rosado-Olivieri, Ali H. Brivanlou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Organizing centers secrete morphogens that specify the emergence of germ layers and the establishment of the body’s axes during embryogenesis. While traditional experimental embryology tools have been instrumental in dissecting the molecular aspects of organizers in model systems, they are impractical in human in-vitro model systems to dissect the relationships between signaling and fate along embryonic coordinates. To systematically study human embryonic organizer centers, we devised a collection of optogenetic ePiggyBac vectors to express a photoactivatable Cre-loxP recombinase, that allows the systematic induction of organizer structures by shining blue-light on human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). We used a light stimulus to geometrically confine SHH expression in neuralizing hESCs. This led to the self-organization of mediolateral neural patterns. scRNA-seq analysis established that these structures represent the dorsal-ventral forebrain, at the end of the first month of development. Here, we show that morphogen light-stimulation is a scalable tool that induces self-organizing centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6768
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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