The Drosophila embryo at single-cell transcriptome resolution


When looking at populations of cells, features such as cell heterogeneity and localization are masked. At the onset of gastrulation, the fly embryo consists of about 6000 cells with distinct gene expression profiles. Karaiskos et al. developed an algorithm to generate an interactive three-dimensional (3D) "virtual embryo," with the expression of more than 8000 genes per cell measured for most cells (see the Perspective by Stadler and Eisen). The virtual embryo offers insights into developmental mechanisms--from local expression of regulators such as transcription factors and long noncoding RNAs to spatial modulation of signaling pathways. Science, this issue p. 194; see also p. 172