Stochastic priming and spatial cues orchestrate heterogeneous clonal contribution to mouse pancreas organogenesis.
Spatiotemporal balancing of cellular proliferation and differentiation is crucial for postnatal tissue homoeostasis and organogenesis. During embryonic development, pancreatic progenitors simultaneously proliferate and differentiate into the endocrine, ductal and acinar lineages. Using in vivo clonal analysis in the founder population of the pancreas here we reveal highly heterogeneous contribution of single progenitors to organ formation. While some progenitors are bona fide multipotent and contribute progeny to all major pancreatic cell lineages, we also identify numerous unipotent endocrine and ducto-endocrine bipotent clones. Single-cell transcriptional profiling at E9.5 reveals that endocrine-committed cells are molecularly distinct, whereas multipotent and bipotent progenitors do not exhibit different expression profiles. Clone size and composition support a probabilistic model of cell fate allocation and in silico simulations predict a transient wave of acinar differentiation around E11.5, while endocrine differentiation is proportionally decreased. Increased proliferative capacity of outer progenitors is further proposed to impact clonal expansion.The pancreas arises from a small population of cells but how individual cells contribute to organ formation is unclear. Here, the authors deconstruct pancreas organogenesis into clonal units, showing that single progenitors give rise to heterogeneous multi-lineage and endocrinogenic single-lineage clones.