Implication of DNA demethylation and bivalent histone modification for selective gene regulation in mouse primordial germ cells.
ABSTRACT: Primordial germ cells (PGCs) sequentially induce specific genes required for their development. We focused on epigenetic changes that regulate PGC-specific gene expression. mil-1, Blimp1, and Stella are preferentially expressed in PGCs, and their expression is upregulated during PGC differentiation. Here, we first determined DNA methylation status of mil-1, Blimp1, and Stella regulatory regions in epiblast and in PGCs, and found that they were hypomethylated in differentiating PGCs after E9.0, in which those genes were highly expressed. We used siRNA to inhibit a maintenance DNA methyltransferase, Dnmt1, in embryonic stem (ES) cells and found that the flanking regions of all three genes became hypomethylated and that expression of each gene increased 1.5- to 3-fold. In addition, we also found 1.5- to 5-fold increase of the PGC genes in the PGCLCs (PGC-like cells) induced form ES cells by knockdown of Dnmt1. We also obtained evidence showing that methylation of the regulatory region of mil-1 resulted in 2.5-fold decrease in expression in a reporter assay. Together, these results suggested that DNA demethylation does not play a major role on initial activation of the PGC genes in the nascent PGCs but contributed to enhancement of their expression in PGCs after E9.0. However, we also found that repression of representative somatic genes, Hoxa1 and Hoxb1, and a tissue-specific gene, Gfap, in PGCs was not dependent on DNA methylation; their flanking regions were hypomethylated, but their expression was not observed in PGCs at E13.5. Their promoter regions showed the bivalent histone modification in PGCs, that may be involved in repression of their expression. Our results indicated that epigenetic status of PGC genes and of somatic genes in PGCs were distinct, and suggested contribution of epigenetic mechanisms in regulation of the expression of a specific gene set in PGCs.
Project description:The rarity and inaccessibility of the earliest primordial germ cells (PGCs) in the mouse embryo thwart efforts to investigate molecular mechanisms of germ-cell specification. stella (also called Dppa3) marks the rare founder population of the germ lineage. Here we differentiate mouse embryonic stem cells carrying a stella transgenic reporter into putative PGCs in vitro. The Stella(+) cells possess a transcriptional profile similar to embryo-derived PGCs, and like their counterparts in vivo, lose imprints in a time-dependent manner. Using inhibitory RNAs to screen candidate genes for effects on the development of Stella(+) cells in vitro, we discovered that Lin28, a negative regulator of let-7 microRNA processing, is essential for proper PGC development. Furthermore, we show that Blimp1 (also called Prdm1), a let-7 target and a master regulator of PGC specification, can rescue the effect of Lin28 deficiency during PGC development, thereby establishing a mechanism of action for Lin28 during PGC specification. Overexpression of Lin28 promotes formation of Stella(+) cells in vitro and PGCs in chimaeric embryos, and is associated with human germ-cell tumours. The differentiation of putative PGCs from embryonic stem cells in vitro recapitulates the early stages of gamete development in vivo, and provides an accessible system for discovering novel genes involved in germ-cell development and malignancy.
Project description:The cell intrinsic programming that regulates mammalian primordial germ cell (PGC) development in the pre-gonadal stage is challenging to investigate. To overcome this we created a transgene-free method for generating PGCs in vitro (iPGCs) from mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Using labeling for SSEA1 and cKit, two cell surface molecules used previously to isolate presumptive iPGCs, we show that not all SSEA1+/cKit+ double positive cells exhibit a PGC identity. Instead, we determined that selecting for cKit(bright) cells within the SSEA1+ fraction significantly enriches for the putative iPGC population. Single cell analysis comparing SSEA1+/cKit(bright) iPGCs to ESCs and embryonic PGCs demonstrates that 97% of single iPGCs co-express PGC signature genes Blimp1, Stella, Dnd1, Prdm14 and Dazl at similar levels to e9.5-10.5 PGCs, whereas 90% of single mouse ESC do not co-express PGC signature genes. For the 10% of ESCs that co-express PGC signature genes, the levels are significantly lower than iPGCs. Microarray analysis shows that iPGCs are transcriptionally distinct from ESCs and repress gene ontology groups associated with mesoderm and heart development. At the level of chromatin, iPGCs contain 5-methyl cytosine bases in their DNA at imprinted and non-imprinted loci, and are enriched in histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation, yet do not have detectable levels of Mvh protein, consistent with a Blimp1-positive pre-gonadal PGC identity. In order to determine whether iPGC formation is dependent upon Blimp1, we generated Blimp1 null ESCs and found that loss of Blimp1 significantly depletes SSEA1/cKit(bright) iPGCs. Taken together, the generation of Blimp1-positive iPGCs from ESCs constitutes a robust model for examining cell-intrinsic regulation of PGCs during the Blimp1-positive stage of development.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Primordial germ cell (PGC) specification is the first crucial step in germ line development. However, owing to significant challenges regarding the in vivo system, such as the complex cellular environment and potential problems with embryo manipulation, it is desirable to generate embryonic stem (ES) cells that are capable of overcoming these aforementioned limitations in order to provide a potential in vitro model to recapitulate the developmental processes in vivo. METHODOLOGY AND PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here, we studied the detailed process of PGC specification from stella-GFP ES cells. We first observed the heterogeneous expression of stella in ES cells. However, neither Stella-positive ES cells nor Stella-negative ES cells shared a similar gene expression pattern with either PGCs or PGC precursors. Second, we derived PGCs from ES cells using two differentiation methods, namely the attachment culture technique and the embryoid body (EB) method. Compared with PGCs derived via the attachment culture technique, PGCs derived via the EB method that had undergone the sequential erasure of Peg3 followed by Igf2r resulted in a cell line in which the expression dynamics of T, Fgf8 and Sox17, in addition to the expression of the epiblast markers, were more similar to the in vivo expression, thus demonstrating that the process of PGC derivation was more faithfully recapitulated using the EB method. Furthermore, we developed an in vitro model of PGC specification in a completely chemically defined medium (CDM) that indicated that BMP4 and Wnt3a promoted PGC derivation, whereas BMP8b and activinA had no observable effect on PGC derivation. CONCLUSIONS AND SIGNIFICANCE: The in vitro model we have established can recapitulate the developmental processes in vivo and provides new insights into the mechanism of PGC specification.
Project description:Transitions in cell states are controlled by combinatorial actions of transcription factors. BLIMP1, the key regulator of primordial germ cell (PGC) specification, apparently acts together with PRDM14 and AP2?. To investigate their individual and combinatorial functions, we first sought an in vitro system for transcriptional readouts and chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing analysis. We then integrated this data with information from single-cell transcriptome analysis of normal and mutant PGCs. Here we show that BLIMP1 binds directly to repress somatic and cell proliferation genes. It also directly induces AP2?, which together with PRDM14 initiates the PGC-specific fate. We determined the occupancy of critical genes by AP2?-which, when computed altogether with those of BLIMP1 and PRDM14 (both individually and cooperatively), reveals a tripartite mutually interdependent transcriptional network for PGCs. We also demonstrate that, in principle, BLIMP1, AP2? and PRDM14 are sufficient for PGC specification, and the unprecedented resetting of the epigenome towards a basal state.
Project description:In mammals, germ cell differentiation is initiated in the Primordial Germ Cells (PGCs) during fetal development. Prenatal exposure to environmental toxicants such as endocrine disruptors may alter PGC differentiation, development of the male germline and induce transgenerational epigenetic disorders. The anti-androgenic compound vinclozolin represents a paradigmatic example of molecule causing transgenerational effects on germ cells. We performed prenatal exposure to vinclozolin in mice and analyzed the phenotypic and molecular changes in three successive generations. A reduction in the number of embryonic PGCs and increased rate of apoptotic cells along with decrease of fertility rate in adult males were observed in F1 to F3 generations. Blimp1 is a crucial regulator of PGC differentiation. We show that prenatal exposure to vinclozolin deregulates specific microRNAs in PGCs, such as miR-23b and miR-21, inducing disequilibrium in the Lin28/let-7/Blimp1 pathway in three successive generations of males. As determined by global maps of cytosine methylation, we found no evidence for prominent changes in DNA methylation in PGCs or mature sperm. Our data suggest that embryonic exposure to environmental endocrine disruptors induces transgenerational epigenetic deregulation of expression of microRNAs affecting key regulatory pathways of germ cells differentiation.
Project description:The gene network controlling primordial germ cell (PGC) specification in eutherian mammals has been exhaustively investigated in mice. The egg-cylinder morphology of the mouse embryo is the key event enabling inductive signals from the extra-embryonic ectoderm (ExE) to specify epiblast cells as PGCs early on. We investigated the embryonic development and the spatiotemporal localization of PGC-associated proteins in the basal Hystricognathi rodent Lagostomus maximus. L. maximus develops through a flat-disc epiblast far apart from the ExE. In the primitive streak stage, OCT4-positive cells are detected in the posterior pole of the embryo disc in the mesoderm of the proximal epiblast. In the neural plate stage, a reduced 8 to 12 OCT4-positive cell population transiently expresses FRAGILIS, STELLA and SOX17 in the posterior streak. Soon after translocation to the hindgut, pluripotent OCT4 cells start expressing VASA, and then, STELLA and FRAGILIS are turned on during migration toward the genital ridge. L. maximus shows a spatiotemporal pattern of PGC-associated markers divergent from the early PGC restriction model seen in mice. This pattern conforms to alternative models that are based on a pluripotent population in the embryonic axis, where PGCs are specified later during development.
Project description:We have previously demonstrated that stem cells isolated from fetal porcine skin have the potential to form oocyte-like cells (OLCs) in vitro. However, primordial germ cells (PGCs), which must also be specified during the stem cell differentiation to give rise to these putative oocytes at more advanced stages of culture, were not systematically characterized. The current study tested the hypothesis that a morphologically distinct population of cells derived from skin stem cells prior to OLC formation corresponds to putative PGCs, which differentiate further into more mature gametes.When induced to differentiate in an appropriate microenvironment, a subpopulation of morphologically distinct cells, some of which are alkaline phosphatase (AP)-positive, also express Oct4, Fragilis, Stella, Dazl, and Vasa, which are markers indicative of germ cell formation. A known differentially methylated region (DMR) within the H19 gene locus, which is demethylated in oocytes after establishment of the maternal imprint, is hypomethylated in PGC-like cells compared to undifferentiated skin-derived stem cells, suggesting that the putative germ cell population undergoes imprint erasure. Additional evidence supporting the germ cell identity of in vitro-generated PGC-like cells is that, when labeled with a Dazl-GFP reporter, these cells further differentiate into GFP-positive OLCs.The ability to generate germ cell precursors from somatic stem cells may provide an in vitro model to study some of the unanswered questions surrounding early germ cell formation.
Project description:Blimp1 (Prdm1), the key determinant of primordial germ cells (PGCs), plays a combinatorial role with Prdm14 during PGC specification from postimplantation epiblast cells. They together initiate epigenetic reprogramming in early germ cells toward an underlying pluripotent state, which is equivalent to embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Whereas Prdm14 alone can promote reprogramming and is important for the propagation of the pluripotent state, it is not known whether Blimp1 is similarly involved. By using a genetic approach, we demonstrate that Blimp1 is dispensable for the derivation and maintenance of ESCs and postimplantation epiblast stem cells (epiSCs). Notably, Blimp1 is also dispensable for reprogramming epiSCs to ESCs. Thus, although Blimp1 is obligatory for PGC specification, it is not required for the reversion of epiSCs to ESCs and for their maintenance thereafter. This study suggests that reprogramming, including that of somatic cells to ESCs, may not entail an obligatory route through a Blimp1-positive PGC-like state.
Project description:BACKGROUND:In mammals, specification of primordial germ cells (PGCs) is established in the early post-implantation embryo. The bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-SMAD and WNT3-?-catenin signaling initiate the gene regulatory network for PGC specification. The activation of SOX17-BLIMP1 axis is critical for human PGC program. Moreover, EpCAM and INTEGRIN?6 were identified as surface markers of human PGC-like cells (PGCLCs) recently. However, the signaling mechanism for PGC specification in non-rodent mammals remains to be clarified. METHODS:We differentiated human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) into PGCLCs in vitro in response to Activin A and BMP4. The percentage of EpCAM/INTEGRIN?6 double-positive cells (PGCLCs) was analyzed by flow cytometry. The expression of PGC genes was evaluated by qRT-PCR and immunofluorescence. The expression dynamic of multi-lineage genes during the differentiation process was evaluated by qRT-PCR. RESULTS:Under the stimulation for PGCLC induction, the embryoids derived from hiPSCs initiated significant upregulation of the early PGC genes (BLIMP1, TFAP2C, and NANOS3), but maintained low or no levels of DPPA3 and late PGC genes (DAZL and DDX4). The percentage of EpCAM/INTEGRIN?6 double-positive PGCLCs reached the highest at day 6 of induction. After pre-induction, the incipient mesoderm-like cells (iMeLCs) upregulated most of the mesoderm genes (EOMES, T, MSXI, RUNX2, and MIXL1). The differentiating embryoids showed high levels of key pluripotency genes, OCT4 and NANOG, but became negative for SOX2. In contrast to iMeLCs, the differentiating embryoids downregulated mesoderm genes RUNX2 and EOMES, and ectoderm gene PAX6, but increased the expression of endoderm gene SOX17. CONCLUSIONS:During PGCLC induction process in vitro, the differentiating embryoids not only activated the PGC-related genes, but also displayed complex regulation of pluripotency genes and multi-lineage genes. These results would be meaningful for future research investigating the regulation of human early germ line development.
Project description:A common feature of development in most vertebrate models is the early segregation of the germ line from the soma. For example, in Xenopus and zebrafish embryos primordial germ cells (PGCs) are specified by germ plasm that is inherited from the egg; in mice, Blimp1 expression in the epiblast mediates the commitment of cells to the germ line. How these disparate mechanisms of PGC specification evolved is unknown. Here, in order to identify the ancestral mechanism of PGC specification in vertebrates, we studied PGC specification in embryos from the axolotl (Mexican salamander), a model for the tetrapod ancestor. In the axolotl, PGCs develop within mesoderm, and classic studies have reported their induction from primitive ectoderm (animal cap). We used an axolotl animal cap system to demonstrate that signalling through FGF and BMP4 induces PGCs. The role of FGF was then confirmed in vivo. We also showed PGC induction by Brachyury, in the presence of BMP4. These conditions induced pluripotent mesodermal precursors that give rise to a variety of somatic cell types, in addition to PGCs. Irreversible restriction of the germ line did not occur until the mid-tailbud stage, days after the somatic germ layers are established. Before this, germline potential was maintained by MAP kinase signalling. We propose that this stochastic mechanism of PGC specification, from mesodermal precursors, is conserved in vertebrates.