Pluripotency factors in embryonic stem cells regulate differentiation into germ layers.
ABSTRACT: Cell fate decisions are fundamental for development, but we do not know how transcriptional networks reorganize during the transition from a pluripotent to a differentiated cell state. Here, we asked how mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) leave the pluripotent state and choose between germ layer fates. By analyzing the dynamics of the transcriptional circuit that maintains pluripotency, we found that Oct4 and Sox2, proteins that maintain ESC identity, also orchestrate germ layer fate selection. Oct4 suppresses neural ectodermal differentiation and promotes mesendodermal differentiation; Sox2 inhibits mesendodermal differentiation and promotes neural ectodermal differentiation. Differentiation signals continuously and asymmetrically modulate Oct4 and Sox2 protein levels, altering their binding pattern in the genome, and leading to cell fate choice. The same factors that maintain pluripotency thus also integrate external signals and control lineage selection. Our study provides a framework for understanding how complex transcription factor networks control cell fate decisions in progenitor cells.
Project description:Pluripotent cells give rise to distinct cell types during development and are regulated by often self-reinforcing molecular networks. How such networks allow cells to differentiate is less well understood. Here, we use integrative methods to show that external signals induce reorganization of the mouse embryonic stem cell pluripotency network and that a sub-network of four factors, Nac1, Oct4, Tcf3, and Sox2, regulates their differentiation into the alternative mesendodermal and neuroectodermal fates. In the mesendodermal fate, Nac1 and Oct4 were constrained within quantitative windows, whereas Sox2 and Tcf3 were repressed. In contrast, in the neuroectodermal fate, Sox2 and Tcf3 were constrained while Nac1 and Oct4 were repressed. In addition, we show that Nac1 coordinates differentiation by activating Oct4 and inhibiting both Sox2 and Tcf3. Reorganization of progenitor cell networks around shared factors might be a common differentiation strategy and our integrative approach provides a general methodology for delineating such networks.
Project description:SOX2 and OCT4 are pioneer transcription factors playing a key role in embryonic stem (ES) cell self-renewal and differentiation. How temporal fluctuations in their expression levels bias lineage commitment is unknown. Here, we generated knock-in reporter fusion ES cell lines allowing to monitor endogenous SOX2 and OCT4 protein fluctuations in living cells and to determine their impact on mesendodermal and neuroectodermal commitment. We found that small differences in SOX2 and OCT4 levels impact cell fate commitment in G1 but not in S phase. Elevated SOX2 levels modestly increased neuroectodermal commitment and decreased mesendodermal commitment upon directed differentiation. In contrast, elevated OCT4 levels strongly biased ES cells towards both neuroectodermal and mesendodermal fates in undirected differentiation. Using ATAC-seq on ES cells gated for different endogenous SOX2 and OCT4 levels, we found that high OCT4 levels increased chromatin accessibility at differentiation-associated enhancers. This suggests that small endogenous fluctuations of pioneer transcription factors can bias cell fate decisions by concentration-dependent priming of differentiation-associated enhancers.
Project description:Mitotic bookmarking transcription factors remain bound to chromosomes during mitosis and were proposed to regulate phenotypic maintenance of stem and progenitor cells at the mitosis-to-G1 (M-G1) transition. However, mitotic bookmarking remains largely unexplored in most stem cell types, and its functional relevance for cell fate decisions remains unclear. Here we screened for mitotic chromosome binding within the pluripotency network of embryonic stem (ES) cells and show that SOX2 and OCT4 remain bound to mitotic chromatin through their respective DNA-binding domains. Dynamic characterization using photobleaching-based methods and single-molecule imaging revealed quantitatively similar specific DNA interactions, but different nonspecific DNA interactions, of SOX2 and OCT4 with mitotic chromatin. Using ChIP-seq (chromatin immunoprecipitation [ChIP] combined with high-throughput sequencing) to assess the genome-wide distribution of SOX2 on mitotic chromatin, we demonstrate the bookmarking activity of SOX2 on a small set of genes. Finally, we investigated the function of SOX2 mitotic bookmarking in cell fate decisions and show that its absence at the M-G1 transition impairs pluripotency maintenance and abrogates its ability to induce neuroectodermal differentiation but does not affect reprogramming efficiency toward induced pluripotent stem cells. Our study demonstrates the mitotic bookmarking property of SOX2 and reveals its functional importance in pluripotency maintenance and ES cell differentiation.
Project description:Pluripotency requires the expression of the three core transcriptions factors Oct4, Sox2 and Nanog, as well as further, complementary proteins. The geminin protein is part of this network, and was shown to play a role in the regulation of DNA replication, the control of the cell cycle, and the acquisition of neural fate. It is highly expressed in the early embryo, in particular the epiblast and the early neural ectoderm, and also in pluripotent embryonic stem cells. The genetic inactivation of geminin resulted in lethality after the first few cell divisions, and thus prohibited the outgrowth of pluripotent cells. We established embryonic stem cells allowing the deletion of the geminin gene by induction of of Cre-recombinase with tamoxifen. Here, we show that geminin deficiency quickly leads to a loss of pluripotency, and to differentiation into the mesendodermal direction with high Oct4/low Sox2 levels. Simultaneous loss of geminin and induction of the neural lineage resulted in immediate apoptosis. These results suggested that in early development geminin functions via the co-expressed Sox2 gene. We found that the stem cell enhancer SRR2 of Sox2 is occupied by the activating esBAF complex in the presence of geminin, but becomes epigenetically repressed in its absence by the Polycomb repressive complex PRC2. The importance of geminin for Sox2 expression also explains the absolute requirement for geminin during the induction of pluripotency by OSKM viruses. In summary, geminin is required for Sox2 expression, and thus for the maintenance of totipotency, pluripotency and the early neural lineage.
Project description:The reprogramming factors that induce pluripotency have been identified primarily from embryonic stem cell (ESC)-enriched, pluripotency-associated factors. Here, we report that, during mouse somatic cell reprogramming, pluripotency can be induced with lineage specifiers that are pluripotency rivals to suppress ESC identity, most of which are not enriched in ESCs. We found that OCT4 and SOX2, the core regulators of pluripotency, can be replaced by lineage specifiers that are involved in mesendodermal (ME) specification and in ectodermal (ECT) specification, respectively. OCT4 and its substitutes attenuated the elevated expression of a group of ECT genes, whereas SOX2 and its substitutes curtailed a group of ME genes during reprogramming. Surprisingly, the two counteracting lineage specifiers can synergistically induce pluripotency in the absence of both OCT4 and SOX2. Our study suggests a "seesaw model" in which a balance that is established using pluripotency factors and/or counteracting lineage specifiers can facilitate reprogramming.
Project description:Although the Oct4/Sox2 complex is crucial for maintaining the pluripotency of stem cells, the molecular basis underlying its regulation during lineage-specific differentiation remains unknown. Here, we revealed that the highly conserved Oct4/Lys-156 is important for maintaining the stability of the Oct4 protein and the intermolecular salt bridge between Oct4/Lys-151 and Sox2/Asp-107 that contributes to the Oct4/Sox2 interaction. Post-translational modifications at Lys-156 and K156N, a somatic mutation detected in bladder cancer patients, both impaired the Lys-151-Asp-107 salt bridge and the Oct4/Sox2 interaction. When produced as a recombinant protein or overexpressed in pluripotent stem cells, Oct4/K156N, with reduced binding to Sox2, significantly down-regulated the stemness genes that are cooperatively controlled by the Oct4/Sox2 complex and specifically up-regulated the mesendodermal genes and the SNAIL family genes that promote the epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Thus, we conclude that Oct4/Lys-156-modulated Oct4/Sox2 interaction coordinately controls the epithelial-mesenchymal transition and mesendoderm specification induced by specific differentiation signals.
Project description:Pluripotent epiblast (EPI) cells, present in the inner cell mass (ICM) of the mouse blastocyst, are progenitors of both embryonic stem (ES) cells and the fetus. Discovering how pluripotency genes regulate cell fate decisions in the blastocyst provides a valuable way to understand how pluripotency is normally established. EPI cells are specified by two consecutive cell fate decisions. The first decision segregates ICM from trophectoderm (TE), an extraembryonic cell type. The second decision subdivides ICM into EPI and primitive endoderm (PE), another extraembryonic cell type. Here, we investigate the roles and regulation of the pluripotency gene Sox2 during blastocyst formation. First, we investigate the regulation of Sox2 patterning and show that SOX2 is restricted to ICM progenitors prior to blastocyst formation by members of the HIPPO pathway, independent of CDX2, the TE transcription factor that restricts Oct4 and Nanog to the ICM. Second, we investigate the requirement for Sox2 in cell fate specification during blastocyst formation. We show that neither maternal (M) nor zygotic (Z) Sox2 is required for blastocyst formation, nor for initial expression of the pluripotency genes Oct4 or Nanog in the ICM. Rather, Z Sox2 initially promotes development of the primitive endoderm (PE) non cell-autonomously via FGF4, and then later maintains expression of pluripotency genes in the ICM. The significance of these observations is that 1) ICM and TE genes are spatially patterned in parallel prior to blastocyst formation and 2) both the roles and regulation of Sox2 in the blastocyst are unique compared to other pluripotency factors such as Oct4 or Nanog.
Project description:The transcription factor BTB and CNC homology 1 (Bach1) is expressed in the embryos of mice, but whether Bach1 regulates the self-renewal and early differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) is unknown. We report that the deubiquitinase ubiquitin-specific processing protease 7 (Usp7) is a direct target of Bach1, that Bach1 interacts with Nanog, Sox2, and Oct4, and that Bach1 facilitates their deubiquitination and stabilization via the recruitment of Usp7, thereby maintaining stem cell identity and self-renewal. Bach1 also interacts with polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) and represses mesendodermal gene expression by recruiting PRC2 to the genes' promoters. The loss of Bach1 in hESCs promotes differentiation toward the mesendodermal germ layers by reducing the occupancy of EZH2 and H3K27me3 in mesendodermal gene promoters and by activating the Wnt/?-catenin and Nodal/Smad2/3 signaling pathways. Our study shows that Bach1 is a key determinant of pluripotency, self-renewal, and lineage specification in hESCs.
Project description:The classical pluripotency factors Oct4, Klf4, Sox2, and Nanog are required for the maintenance of pluripotency and self-renewal of embryonic stem (ES) cells and can reprogram terminally differentiated cells into a pluripotent state. Alteration in the levels of these factors in ES cells will cause differentiation into different lineages, suggesting that they are critical determinants of cell fates. These factors show dynamic expression patterns during embryogenesis, in particular in the pluripotent or multipotent cells of an early stage embryo, implying that they are involved in the cell fate decision during early embryonic development. Functions and the underlying molecular mechanisms have been extensively studied for these factors in ES cells under cultured conditions. However, this does not mean that the results also hold true for intact embryos. In the review, I have summarized and discussed the findings on the functions and the underlying mechanisms of the classical pluripotency factors during early embryogenesis, in particular during germ layer formation.
Project description:Primordial germ cells (PGCs) share many properties with embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and innately express several key pluripotency-controlling factors, including OCT4, NANOG, and LIN28. Therefore, PGCs may provide a simple and efficient model for studying somatic cell reprogramming to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), especially in determining the regulatory mechanisms that fundamentally define pluripotency. Here, we report a novel model of PGC reprogramming to generate iPSCs via transfection with SOX2 and OCT4 using integrative lentiviral. We also show the feasibility of using nonintegrative approaches for generating iPSC from PGCs using only these two factors. We show that human PGCs express endogenous levels of KLF4 and C-MYC protein at levels similar to embryonic germ cells (EGCs) but lower levels of SOX2 and OCT4. Transfection with both SOX2 and OCT4 together was required to induce PGCs to a pluripotent state at an efficiency of 1.71%, and the further addition of C-MYC increased the efficiency to 2.33%. Immunohistochemical analyses of the SO-derived PGC-iPSCs revealed that these cells were more similar to ESCs than EGCs regarding both colony morphology and molecular characterization. Although leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) was not required for the generation of PGC-iPSCs like EGCs, the presence of LIF combined with ectopic exposure to C-MYC yielded higher efficiencies. Additionally, the SO-derived PGC-iPSCs exhibited differentiation into representative cell types from all three germ layers in vitro and successfully formed teratomas in vivo. Several lines were generated that were karyotypically stable for up to 24 subcultures. Their derivation efficiency and survival in culture significantly supersedes that of EGCs, demonstrating their utility as a powerful model for studying factors regulating pluripotency in future studies.