Germline competency of human embryonic stem cells depends on eomesodermin.
ABSTRACT: In humans, germline competency and the specification of primordial germ cells (PGCs) are thought to occur in a restricted developmental window during early embryogenesis. Despite the importance of specifying the appropriate number of PGCs for human reproduction, the molecular mechanisms governing PGC formation remain largely unexplored. Here, we compared PGC-like cell (PGCLC) differentiation from 18 independently derived human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines, and discovered that the expression of primitive streak genes were positively associated with hESC germline competency. Furthermore, we show that chemical inhibition of TGF? and WNT signaling, which are required for primitive streak formation and CRISPR/Cas9 deletion of Eomesodermin (EOMES), significantly impacts PGCLC differentiation from hESCs. Taken together, our results suggest that human PGC formation involves signaling and transcriptional programs associated with somatic germ layer induction and expression of EOMES.
Project description:In humans, germline competency and the specification of primordial germ cells (PGCs) are thought to occur in a restricted developmental window during early embryogenesis. Despite the importance of specifying the appropriate number of PGCs for human reproduction, the molecular mechanisms governing PGC formation remain largely unexplored. Here, we compared PGC-like cell (PGCLC) differentiation from 18 independently derived human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines, and discovered that the expression of primitive streak genes were positively associated with hESC germline competency. Furthermore, we show that chemical inhibition of TGFβ and WNT signaling, which are required for primitive streak formation and CRISPR/Cas9 deletion of Eomesodermin (EOMES), significantly impacts PGCLC differentiation from hESCs. Taken together, our results suggest that human PGC formation involves signaling and transcriptional programs associated with somatic germ layer induction and expression of EOMES. Overall design: There are 91 RNAseq samples in total.
Project description:The transcription factors (TFs) Nanog and Esrrb play important roles in embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and during primordial germ-cell (PGC) development. Esrrb is a positively regulated direct target of NANOG in ESCs that can substitute qualitatively for Nanog function in ESCs. Whether this functional substitution extends to the germline is unknown. Here, we show that germline deletion of Nanog reduces PGC numbers 5-fold at midgestation. Despite this quantitative depletion, Nanog-null PGCs can complete germline development in contrast to previous findings. PGC-like cell (PGCLC) differentiation of Nanog-null ESCs is also impaired, with Nanog-null PGCLCs showing decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis. However, induced expression of Esrrb restores PGCLC numbers as efficiently as Nanog. These effects are recapitulated in vivo: knockin of Esrrb to Nanog restores PGC numbers to wild-type levels and results in fertile adult mice. These findings demonstrate that Esrrb can replace Nanog function in germ cells.
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:The embryonic stem cell cycle (ESCC) and let-7 families of miRNAs function antagonistically in the switch between mouse embryonic stem cell self-renewal and somatic differentiation. Here, we report that the human ESCC miRNA miR-372 and let-7 act antagonistically in germline differentiation from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). hESC and iPSC-derived primordial germ cell-like cells (PGCLCs) expressed high levels of miR-372 and conversely, somatic cells expressed high levels of let-7. Manipulation of miRNA levels by introduction of miRNA mimics or knockdown with miRNA sponges demonstrated that miR-372 promotes whereas let-7 antagonizes PGCLC differentiation. Knockdown of the individual miR-372 targets SMARCC1, MECP2, CDKN1, RBL2, RHOC, and TGFBR2 increased PGCLC production, whereas knockdown of the let-7 targets CMYC and NMYC suppressed PGCLC differentiation. These findings uncover a miR-372/let-7 axis regulating human primordial germ cell (PGC) specification. Stem Cells 2016;34:1985-1991.
Project description:An in vitro culture system of chicken primordial germ cells (PGCs) has been recently developed, but the growth factor involved in the proliferation of PGCs is largely unknown. In the present study, we investigated the growth effects of chicken stem cell factor (chSCF) on the in vitro proliferation of chicken PGCs. We established two feeder cell lines (buffalo rat liver cells; BRL cells) that stably express the putative secreted form of chSCF (chSCF1-BRL) and membrane bound form of chSCF (chSCF2-BRL). Cultured PGC lines were incubated on chSCF1 or chSCF2-BRL feeder cells with fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), and growth effects of each chSCF isoform were investigated. The in vitro proliferation rate of the PGCs cultured on chSCF2-BRL at 20 days of culture was more than threefold higher than those cultured on chSCF1-BRL cells and more than fivefold higher than those cultured on normal BRL cells. Thus, use of chSCF2-BRL feeder layer was effective for in vitro proliferation of chicken PGCs. However, the acceleration of PGC proliferation on chSCF2-BRL was not observed without FGF2, suggesting that chSCF2 would act as a proliferation co-factor of FGF2. We transferred the PGCs cultured on chSCF2-BRL cells to recipient embryos, generated germline chimeric chickens and assessed the germline competency of cultured PGCs by progeny test. Donor-derived progenies were obtained, and the frequency of germline transmission was 3.39%. The results of this study demonstrate that chSCF2 induces hyperproliferation of chicken PGCs retaining germline competency in vitro in cooperation with FGF2.
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: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.
Project description:Early mammalian development entails transit through naive pluripotency towards post-implantation epiblast, which subsequently gives rise to primordial germ cells (PGC), the founding germline population. To investigate these cell fate transitions, we developed a compound-reporter to track cellular identity in a model of PGC specification (PGC-like cells; PGCLC), and coupled it with genome-wide CRISPR screening. We identify key genes both for exit from pluripotency and for acquisition of PGC fate, and characterise a central role for the transcription regulators Nr5a2 and Zfp296 in germline ontogeny. Abrogation of these genes results in widespread activation (Nr5a2-/-) or inhibition (Zfp296-/-) of WNT pathway factors in PGCLC. This leads to aberrant upregulation of the somatic programme or failure to activate germline genes, respectively, and consequently loss of germ cell identity. Our study places Zfp296 and Nr5a2 as key components of an expanded PGC gene regulatory network, and outlines a transferable strategy for identifying critical regulators of complex cell fate decisions.
Project description:The expansion of primordial germ cells (PGCs), the precursors for the oocytes and spermatozoa, is a key challenge in reproductive biology/medicine. Using a chemical screening exploiting PGC-like cells (PGCLCs) induced from mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs), we here identify key signaling pathways critical for PGCLC proliferation. We show that the combinatorial application of Forskolin and Rolipram, which stimulate cAMP signaling via different mechanisms, expands PGCLCs up to ~50-fold in culture. The expanded PGCLCs maintain robust capacity for spermatogenesis, rescuing the fertility of infertile mice. Strikingly, during expansion, PGCLCs comprehensively erase their DNA methylome, including parental imprints, in a manner that precisely recapitulates genome-wide DNA demethylation in gonadal germ cells, while essentially maintaining their identity as sexually uncommitted PGCs, apparently through appropriate histone modifications. By establishing a paradigm for PGCLC expansion, our system reconstitutes the epigenetic "blank slate" of the germ line, an immediate precursory state for sexually dimorphic differentiation.
Project description:Xenopus primordial germ cells (PGCs) are determined by the presence of maternally derived germ plasm. Germ plasm components both protect PGCs from somatic differentiation and begin a unique gene expression program. Segregation of the germline from the endodermal lineage occurs during gastrulation, and PGCs subsequently initiate zygotic transcription. However, the gene network(s) that operate to both preserve and promote germline differentiation are poorly understood. Here, we utilized RNA-sequencing analysis to comprehensively interrogate PGC and neighboring endoderm cell mRNAs after lineage segregation. We identified 1865 transcripts enriched in PGCs compared with endoderm cells. We next compared the PGC-enriched transcripts with previously identified maternal, vegetally enriched transcripts and found that ∼38% of maternal transcripts were enriched in PGCs, including sox7 PGC-directed sox7 knockdown and overexpression studies revealed an early requirement for sox7 in germ plasm localization, zygotic transcription and PGC number. We identified pou5f3.3 as the most highly expressed and enriched POU5F1 homolog in PGCs. We compared the Xenopus PGC transcriptome with human PGC transcripts and showed that 80% of genes are conserved, underscoring the potential usefulness of Xenopus for understanding human germline specification.