1. College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, P.R. China
2. College of Life Sciences, South-Central University for Nationalities, Wuhan 430074, P.R. China
3. Section on Molecular Morphogenesis, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Development, NICHD, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA
* These authors contribute equally to this work.
Human embryogenesis includes an integrated set of complex yet coordinated development of different organs and tissues, which is regulated by the spatiotemporal expression of many genes. Deciphering the gene regulation profile is essential for understanding the molecular basis of human embryo development. While molecular and genetic studies in mouse have served as a valuable tool to understand mammalian development, significant differences exists in human and mouse development at morphological and genomic levels. Thus it is important to carry out research directly on human embryonic development. Here we will review some recent studies on gene regulation during human embryogenesis with particular focus on the period of organogenesis, which had not been well studied previously. We will highlight a gene expression database of human embryos from the 4th to the 9th week. The analysis of gene regulation during this period reveals that genes functioning in a given developmental process tend to be coordinately regulated during human embryogenesis. This feature allows us to use this database to identify new genes important for a particular developmental process/pathway and deduce the potential function of a novel gene during organogenesis. Such a gene expression atlas should serve as an important resource for molecular study of human development and pathogenesis.
Keywords: Human embryonic development, Gene expression profile, Gene regulation database, Organogenesis, Microarrays, Maternal genes