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Christopher Penfold obtained his PhD from the Department of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield in 2010. During his first postdoc at the University of Warwick he developed Bayesian approaches to study plant transcriptional networks. In 2015 he moved to Cambridge to pursue an interest in mammalian developmental biology, and since then has focussed on embryogenesis, the germ line, and nuclear transfer, working with the Boroviak, Surani, and Gurdon labs.

Gastrulation is a critical stage of development in mammals which sees the diversification of embryonic and extraembryonic lineages, and firmly establishes the axes of the body plan in preparation for organogenesis. Around this time, embryonic precursors of the germ line — the primordial germ cells (PGCs) — are also specified.
In this talk I use marmoset in utero spatial transcriptomics alongside stem cell-based models and integrative cross-species analyses to illuminate early gastrulation in primates. Gaussian process regression-based 3D-transcriptomes delineate the emergence of the anterior visceral endoderm, which is hallmarked by conserved and primate-specific factors. WNT signalling spatially coordinates primitive streak formation in the embryonic disc and is counteracted by SFRP1/2 to sustain pluripotency in the anterior domain, whilst amnion specification occurs at the boundaries of the embryonic disc in response to BMP-signalling. Spatial identity mapping demonstrates that primed marmoset PSCs exhibit highest similarity to the anterior embryonic disc, while naïve PSCs resemble the preimplantation epiblast. Finally, this spatial reference dataset is used to provide embryonic context to human in vitro models of PGC specification and together identify new regulators of the PGC network.