High-throughput tracking of pluripotent human embryonic stem cells with dual fluorescence resonance energy transfer molecular beacons.
ABSTRACT: Pluripotent human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) provide an unprecedented opportunity for the study of human tissue development, and the development of cell-based therapies for human disease. To realize these potential advances, however, methods for monitoring expression of intracellular proteins in live hESCs without altering cellular properties are needed. Molecular beacons are single-stranded oligonucleotides that have been employed to assay gene expression. To test their potential for high-throughput isolation of hESCs, we developed a dual fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) molecular beacon system using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) with Oct4 as a target. We demonstrate that Oct4 can be detected by FRET using confocal microscopy, that this can be applied in a high-throughput manner to the identification and isolation of Oct4-expressing hESCs by FACS, that FRET-positive hESCs demonstrate pluripotency in culture and in vivo, and that hESCs transfected with molecular beacons demonstrate normal growth rates and oligonucleotide extinction over time. These studies demonstrate that FRET-based FACS using molecular beacons provides a useful tool for isolating Oct4-expressing pluripotent hESCs, and may also be adapted to selecting differentiating hESCs at specific developmental time points determined by transcription factor expression without functional or genomic alteration. As such, it provides an important new method for high-throughput isolation of hESC-derived tissue-specific precursors for analytic and therapeutic purposes.
Project description:hiPSC derivation and selection remains inefficient; with selection of high quality clones dependent on extensive characterization which is not amenable to high-throughput (HTP) approaches. We recently described the use of a cocktail of small molecules to enhance hiPSC survival and stability in single cell culture and the use of flow cytometry cell sorting in the HTP-derivation of hiPSCs. Here we report an enhanced protocol for the isolation of bona fide hiPSCs in FACS-based selection using an optimized combination of cell surface markers including CD30. Depletion of CD30(+) cells from reprogramming cultures almost completely abolished the NANOG and OCT4 positive sub-population, suggesting it is a pivotal marker of pluripotent cells. Combining CD30 to SSEA4 and TRA-1-81 in FACS greatly enhanced specificity and efficiency of hiPSC selection and derivation. The current method allows for the efficient and automated, prospective isolation of high-quality hiPSC from the reprogramming cell milieu.
Project description:One of the challenges in studying early differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) is being able to discriminate the initial differentiated cells from the original pluripotent stem cells and their committed progenies. It remains unclear how a pluripotent stem cell becomes a lineage-specific cell type during early development, and how, or if, pluripotent genes, such as Oct4 and Sox2, play a role in this transition. Here, by studying the dynamic changes in the expression of embryonic surface antigens, we identified the sequential loss of Tra-1-81 and SSEA4 during hESC neural differentiation and isolated a transient Tra-1-81(-)/SSEA4(+) (TR-/S4+) cell population in the early stage of neural differentiation. These cells are distinct from both undifferentiated hESCs and their committed neural progenitor cells (NPCs) in their gene expression profiles and response to extracellular signalling; they co-express both the pluripotent gene Oct4 and the neural marker Pax6. Furthermore, these TR-/S4+ cells are able to produce cells of both neural and non-neural lineages, depending on their environmental cues. Our results demonstrate that expression of the pluripotent factor Oct4 is progressively downregulated and is accompanied by the gradual upregulation of neural genes, whereas the pluripotent factor Sox2 is consistently expressed at high levels, indicating that these pluripotent factors may play different roles in the regulation of neural differentiation. The identification of TR-S4+ cells provides a cell model for further elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying hESC neural differentiation.
Project description:Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have the capacity to differentiate into all cell types and thus have great potential for regenerative medicine. hESCs cultured at low oxygen tensions are more pluripotent and display an increased glycolytic rate but how this is regulated is unknown. This study therefore aimed to investigate the regulation of glucose metabolism in hESCs and whether this might impact OCT4 expression. In contrast to the glucose transporter GLUT1, GLUT3 was regulated by environmental oxygen and localised to hESC membranes. Silencing GLUT3 caused a reduction in glucose uptake and lactate production as well as OCT4 expression. GLUT3 and OCT4 expression were correlated suggesting that hESC self-renewal is regulated by the rate of glucose uptake. Surprisingly, PKM2, a rate limiting enzyme of glycolysis displayed a nuclear localisation in hESCs and silencing PKM2 did not alter glucose metabolism suggesting a role other than as a glycolytic enzyme. PKM2 expression was increased in hESCs cultured at 5% oxygen compared to 20% oxygen and silencing PKM2 reduced OCT4 expression highlighting a transcriptional role for PKM2 in hESCs. Together, these data demonstrate two separate mechanisms by which genes regulating glucose uptake and metabolism are involved in the hypoxic support of pluripotency in hESCs.
Project description:Understanding the intrinsic and extrinsic signals that regulate the molecular basis of the pluripotent state may improve our understanding of mammalian embryogenesis, different states of pluripotency, and our ability to tailor lineage differentiation. Although the role of the PI3K/Akt pathway in the self-renewal and maintenance of mESCs is well-established, the specific contribution of the pathway or of its negative regulator, PTEN, in the maintenance of the human pluripotent state is less understood. To explore the PI3K/AKT pathway in human embryonic stem cell (hESC) pluripotency and differentiation, we generated stable PTEN knockdown (KD) hESCs using short hairpin RNA. Similar to mESCs, we found that PTEN KD hESCs have increased self-renewal, cell survival, and proliferation over multiple passages compared to control cells. However, in contrast to mESCs, in vitro, PTEN KD hESCs differentiated inefficiently in directed differentiation assays, in part due to the continued maintenance of OCT4 and NANOG expression. In teratoma assays, PTEN KD hESCs generated tissues from the three germ layers, although with a bias toward neuroectoderm differentiation. These results demonstrate that PTEN is a key regulator of hESC growth and differentiation, and manipulation of this pathway may improve our ability to regulate and understand the pluripotent state.
Project description:Realizing the full potential of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) requires efficient methods for genetic modification. However, techniques to generate cell type-specific lineage reporters, as well as reliable tools to disrupt, repair or overexpress genes by gene targeting, are inefficient at best and thus are not routinely used. Here we report the highly efficient targeting of three genes in human pluripotent cells using zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN)-mediated genome editing. First, using ZFNs specific for the OCT4 (POU5F1) locus, we generated OCT4-eGFP reporter cells to monitor the pluripotent state of hESCs. Second, we inserted a transgene into the AAVS1 locus to generate a robust drug-inducible overexpression system in hESCs. Finally, we targeted the PITX3 gene, demonstrating that ZFNs can be used to generate reporter cells by targeting non-expressed genes in hESCs and hiPSCs.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Sox2 is a well-established pluripotent transcription factor that plays an essential role in establishing and maintaining pluripotent stem cells (PSCs). It is also thought to be a linage specifier that governs PSC neural lineage specification upon their exiting the pluripotent state. However, the exact role of SOX2 in human PSCs was still not fully understood. In this study, we studied the role of SOX2 in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) by gain- and loss-of-function approaches and explored the possible underlying mechanisms. RESULTS:We demonstrate that knockdown of SOX2 induced hESC differentiation to endoderm-like cells, whereas overexpression of SOX2 in hESCs enhanced their pluripotency under self-renewing culture conditions but promoted their neural differentiation upon replacing the culture to non-self-renewal conditions. We show that this culture-dependent dual function of SOX2 was probably attributed to its interaction with different transcription factors predisposed by the culture environments. Whilst SOX2 interacts with OCT4 under self-renewal conditions, we found that, upon neural differentiation, PAX6, a key neural transcription factor, is upregulated and shows interaction with SOX2. The SOX2-PAX6 complex has different gene regulation pattern from that of SOX2-OCT4 complex. CONCLUSIONS:Our work provides direct evidence that SOX2 is necessarily required for hESC pluripotency; however, it can also function as a neural factor, depending on the environmental input. OCT4 and PAX6 might function as key SOX2-interacting partners that determine the function of SOX2 in hESCs.
Project description:Oct4 and Sox2 are transcription factors required for pluripotency during early embryogenesis and for the maintenance of embryonic stem cell (ESC) identity. Functional mechanisms contributing to pluripotency are expected to be associated with genes transcriptionally activated by these factors. Here, we show that Oct4 and Sox2 bind to a conserved promoter region of miR-302, a cluster of eight microRNAs expressed specifically in ESCs and pluripotent cells. The expression of miR-302a is dependent on Oct4/Sox2 in human ESCs (hESCs), and miR-302a is expressed at the same developmental stages and in the same tissues as Oct4 during embryogenesis. miR-302a is predicted to target many cell cycle regulators, and the expression of miR-302a in primary and transformed cell lines promotes an increase in S-phase and a decrease in G(1)-phase cells, reminiscent of an ESC-like cell cycle profile. Correspondingly, the inhibition of miR-302 causes hESCs to accumulate in G(1) phase. Moreover, we show that miR-302a represses the productive translation of an important G(1) regulator, cyclin D1, in hESCs. The transcriptional activation of miR-302 and the translational repression of its targets, such as cyclin D1, may provide a link between Oct4/Sox2 and cell cycle regulation in pluripotent cells.
Project description:Restoring pluripotency using chemical compounds alone would be a major step forward in developing clinical-grade pluripotent stem cells, but this has not yet been reported in human cells. We previously demonstrated that VPA_AFS cells, human amniocytes cultivated with valproic acid (VPA) acquired functional pluripotency while remaining distinct from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), questioning the relationship between the modulation of cell fate and molecular regulation of the pluripotency network. Here, we used single-cell analysis and functional assays to reveal that VPA treatment resulted in a homogeneous population of self-renewing non-transformed cells that fulfill the hallmarks of pluripotency, i.e., a short G1 phase, a dependence on glycolytic metabolism, expression of epigenetic modifications on histones 3 and 4, and reactivation of endogenous OCT4 and downstream targets at a lower level than that observed in hESCs. Mechanistic insights into the process of VPA-induced reprogramming revealed that it was dependent on OCT4 promoter activation, which was achieved independently of the PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase)/AKT/mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) pathway or GSK3? inhibition but was concomitant with the presence of acetylated histones H3K9 and H3K56, which promote pluripotency. Our data identify, for the first time, the pluripotent transcriptional and molecular signature and metabolic status of human chemically induced pluripotent stem cells.
Project description:Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can provide insights into development of inaccessible human tissues such as embryonic endoderm. Progress in this area has been hindered by a lack of methods for isolating endodermal cells and tracing fates of their differentiated progeny. By using homologous recombination in human ESCs, we inserted an enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) transgene into the SOX17 locus, a postulated marker of human endoderm. FACS purification and gene expression profiling confirmed that SOX17(+)-hESC progeny expressed endodermal markers and unveiled specific cell surface protein combinations that permitted FACS-based isolation of primitive gut tube endodermal cells produced from unmodified human ESCs and from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Differentiating SOX17(+) endodermal cells expressed markers of liver, pancreas, and intestinal epithelium in vitro and gave rise to endodermal progeny in vivo. Thus, prospective isolation, lineage tracing, and developmental studies of SOX17(+) hESC progeny have revealed fundamental aspects of human endodermal biology.
Project description:Heterogeneity is a feature of stem cell populations, resulting from innate cellular hierarchies that govern differentiation capability. How heterogeneity impacts human pluripotent stem cell populations is directly relevant to their efficacious use in regenerative medicine applications. The control of pluripotency is asserted by a core transcription factor network, of which Oct4 is a necessary member. In mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs), the zinc finger transcription factor Rex1 (Zfp42) closely tracks the undifferentiated state and is capable of segregating Oct4 positive mESCs into metastable populations expressing or lacking Rex1 that are inter-convertible. However, little is currently understood about the extent or function of heterogeneous populations in the human pluripotent compartment. Human ESCs express REX1 transcripts but the distribution and properties of REX1 expressing cells have yet to be described. To address these questions, we used gene targeting in human ESCs to insert the fluorescent protein Venus and an antibiotic selection marker under the control of the endogenous REX1 transcription regulatory elements, generating a sensitive, selectable reporter of pluripotency. REX1 is co-expressed in OCT4 and TRA-1-60 positive hESCs and rapidly lost upon differentiation. Importantly, REX1 expression reveals significant heterogeneity within seemingly homogenous populations of OCT4 and TRA-1-60 hESCs. REX1 expression is extinguished before OCT4 during differentiation, but, in contrast to the mouse, loss of REX1 expression demarcates a stable, OCT4 positive lineage-primed state in pluripotent hESCs that does not revert back to REX1 positivity under normal conditions. We show that loss of REX1 expression correlates with altered patterns of DNA methylation at the REX1 locus, implying that epigenetic mechanisms may interfere with the metastable phenotype commonly found in murine pluripotency.