Human blastocyst outgrowths recapitulate primordial germ cell specification events.
ABSTRACT: Our current knowledge of the mechanisms leading to human primordial germ cell (PGC) specification stems solely from differentiation experiments starting from human pluripotent stem cells. However, information regarding the origin of PGCs in vivo remains obscure. Here we apply an improved system for extended in vitro culture of human embryos to investigate the presence of PGC-like cells (PGCLCs) 12 days post fertilization (dpf). Good quality blastocysts (n = 141) were plated at 6 dpf and maintained in hypoxia, in medium supplemented with Activin A until 12 dpf. We primarily reveal that 12 dpf outgrowths recapitulate human peri-implantation events and demonstrate that blastocyst quality significantly impacts both embryo viability at 12 dpf, as well as the presence of POU5F1+ cells within viable outgrowths. Moreover, detailed examination of 12 dpf blastocyst outgrowths revealed a population of POU5F1+, SOX2- and SOX17+ cells that may correspond to PGCLCs, alongside POU5F1+ epiblast-like cells and GATA6+ endoderm-like cells. Our findings suggest that, in human, PGC precursors may become specified within the epiblast and migrate either transiently to the extra-embryonic mesoderm or directly to the dorsal part of the yolk sac endoderm around 12 dpf. This is a descriptive analysis and as such the conclusion that POU5F1+ and SOX17+ cells represent bona fide PGCs can only be considered as preliminary. In the future, other PGC markers may be used to further validate the observed cell populations. Overall, our findings provide insights into the origin of the human germline and may serve as a foundation to further unravel the molecular mechanisms governing PGC specification in human.
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 genome-wide depletion of 5-methylcytosines (5meCs) caused by passive dilution through DNA synthesis without daughter strand methylation and active enzymatic processes resulting in replacement of 5meCs with unmethylated cytosines is a hallmark of primordial germ cells (PGCs). Although recent studies have shown that in vitro differentiation of pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) to PGC-like cells (PGCLCs) mimics the in vivo differentiation of epiblast cells to PGCs, how DNA methylation status of PGCLCs resembles the dynamics of 5meC erasure in embryonic PGCs remains controversial. Here, by differential detection of genome-wide 5meC and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmeC) distributions by deep sequencing, we show that PGCLCs derived from mouse PSCs recapitulated the process of genome-wide DNA demethylation in embryonic PGCs, including significant demethylation of imprint control regions (ICRs) associated with increased mRNA expression of the corresponding imprinted genes. Although 5hmeCs were also significantly diminished in PGCLCs, they retained greater amounts of 5hmeCs than intragonadal PGCs. The genomes of both PGCLCs and PGCs selectively retained both 5meCs and 5hmeCs at a small number of repeat sequences such as GSAT_MM, of which the significant retention of bisulfite-resistant cytosines was corroborated by reanalysis of previously published whole-genome bisulfite sequencing data for intragonadal PGCs. PSCs harboring abnormal hypermethylation at ICRs of the Dlk1-Gtl2-Dio3 imprinting cluster diminished these 5meCs upon differentiation to PGCLCs, resulting in transcriptional reactivation of the Gtl2 gene. These observations support the usefulness of PGCLCs in studying the germline epigenetic erasure including imprinted genes, epimutations, and erasure-resistant loci, which may be involved in transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.
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:Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are founder cells of the germ cell lineage, and can be differentiated from stem cells in an induced system in vitro. However, the induction conditions need to be optimized in order to improve the differentiation efficiency. Activin A (ActA) is a member of the TGF-? super family and plays an important role in oogenesis and folliculogenesis. In the present study, we found that ActA promoted PGC-like cells (PGCLCs) formation from mouse skin-derived stem cells (SDSCs) in both embryoid body-like structure (EBLS) differentiation and the co-culture stage in a dose dependent manner. ActA treatment (100 ng/ml) during EBLS differentiation stage and further co-cultured for 6 days without ActA significantly increased PGCLCs from 53.2% to 82.8%, and as well as EBLS differentiation without ActA followed by co-cultured with 100 ng/ml ActA for 4 to 12 days with the percentage of PGCLCs increasing markedly in vitro. Moreover, mice treated with ActA at 100 ng/kg body weight from embryonic day (E) 5.5-12.5 led to more PGCs formation. However, the stimulating effects of ActA were interrupted by Smad3 RNAi, and in an in vitro cultured Smad3(-/-) mouse skin cells scenario. SMAD3 is thus likely a key effecter molecule in the ActA signaling pathway. In addition, we found that the expression of some epiblast cell markers, Fgf5, Dnmt3a, Dnmt3b and Wnt3, was increased in EBLSs cultured for 4 days or PGCLCs co-cultured for 12 days with ActA treatment. Interestingly, at 16 days of differentiation, the percentage of PGCLCs was decreased in the presence of ActA, but the expression of meiosis-relative genes, such as Stra8, Dmc1, Sycp3 and Sycp1, was increased. In conclusion, our data here demonstrated that ActA can promote PGCLC formation from SDSCs in vitro, at early stages of differentiation, and affect meiotic initiation of PGCLCs in later stages.
Project description: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:Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are precursors of gametes that can generate new individuals throughout life in both males and females. Additionally, PGCs have been shown to differentiate into embryonic germ cells (EGCs) after in vitro culture. Most studies investigating germinative cells have been performed in rodents and humans but not dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Here, we elucidated the dynamics of the expression of pluripotent (POU5F1 and NANOG), germline (DDX4, DAZL and DPPA3), and epigenetic (5mC, 5hmC, H3K27me3 and H3K9me2) markers that are important for the development of male canine germ cells during the early (22-30 days post-fertilization (dpf)), middle (35-40 dpf) and late (45-50 dpf) gestational periods. We performed sex genotype characterization, immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry, and quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) analyses. Furthermore, in a preliminary study, we evaluated the capacity of canine embryo PGCs (30 dpf) to differentiate into EGCs. To confirm the canine EGCs phenotype, we performed alkaline phosphatase detection, immunohistochemistry, electron and transmission scanning microscopy and RT-qPCR analyses. The PGCs were positive for POU5F1 and H3K27me3 during all assessed developmental periods, including all periods between the gonadal tissue stage and foetal testes development. The number of NANOG, DDX4, DAZL, DPPA3 and 5mC-positive cells increased along with the developing cords from 35-50 dpf. Moreover, our results demonstrate the feasibility of inducing canine PGCs into putative EGCs that present pluripotent markers, such as POU5F1 and the NANOG gene, and exhibit reduced expression of germinative genes and increased expression of H3K27me3. This study provides new insight into male germ cell development mechanisms in dogs.
Project description:The mechanism for sex determination in mammalian germ cells remains unclear. Here, we reconstitute the female sex determination in mouse germ cells in vitro under a defined condition without the use of gonadal somatic cells. We show that retinoic acid (RA) and its key effector, STRA8, are not sufficient to induce the female germ-cell fate. In contrast, bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and RA synergistically induce primordial germ cells (PGCs)/PGC-like cells (PGCLCs) derived from embryonic stem cells (ESCs) into fetal primary oocytes. The induction is characterized by entry into the meiotic prophase, occurs synchronously and recapitulates cytological and transcriptome progression in vivo faithfully. Importantly, the female germ-cell induction necessitates a proper cellular competence-most typically, DNA demethylation of relevant genes-which is observed in appropriately propagated PGCs/PGCLCs, but not in PGCs/PGCLCs immediately after induction. This provides an explanation for the differential function of BMP signaling between PGC specification and female germ-cell induction. Our findings represent a framework for a comprehensive delineation of the sex-determination pathway in mammalian germ cells, including humans.
Project description:Primordial germ cells (PGCs) develop only into sperm and oocytes in vivo. The molecular mechanisms underlying human PGC specification are poorly understood due to inaccessibility of cell materials and lack of in vitro models for tracking the earliest stages of germ cell development. Here, we describe a defined and stepwise differentiation system for inducing pre-migratory PGC-like cells (PGCLCs) from human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs). In response to cytokines, PSCs differentiate first into a heterogeneous mesoderm-like cell population and then into PGCLCs, which exhibit minimal PRDM14 expression. PGC specification in humans is similar to the murine process, with the sequential activation of mesodermal and PGC genes, and the suppression of neural induction and of de novo DNA methylation, suggesting that human PGC formation is induced via epigenesis, the process of germ cell specification via inductive signals from surrounding somatic cells. This study demonstrates that PGC commitment in humans shares key features with that of the mouse, but also highlights key differences, including transcriptional regulation during the early stage of human PGC development (3-6 weeks). A more comprehensive understanding of human germ cell development may lead to methodology for successfully generating PSC-derived gametes for reproductive medicine.
Project description:The generation of properly functioning gametes in vitro, a key goal in developmental/reproductive biology, requires multi-step reconstitutions of complex germ cell development. Based on the logic of primordial germ cell (PGC)-specification, we demonstrate here the generation of PGC-like cells (PGCLCs) in mice with robust capacity for spermatogenesis from embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) through epiblast-like cells (EpiLCs), a cellular state highly similar to pre-gastrulating epiblasts, but distinct from epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs). The global transcription profiles, epigenetic reprogramming, and cellular dynamics during PGCLC induction from EpiLCs are a meticulous capture of those associated with PGC specification from the epiblasts. Furthermore, we identify Integrin-beta 3 and SSEA1 as markers that purify PGCLCs with spermatogenic capacity free from tumorigenic undifferentiated cells. With the reconstitution of PGC specification pathway from the naive inner cell mass state, our study defines a paradigm for the essential step of in vitro gametogenesis. We performed this analysis to reveal the characters of the cells that we created in this study, epiblast-like cells (EpiLCs) and primordial germ cells-like cells (PGCLCs). Because EpiLCs were induced from embryonic stem cells (ESCs), and equivalent to pre-gastrulating epiblast (embryonic day [E] 5.5-6.0) in vivo (embryo), ESCs and epiblast were included in this analysis. Epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs) are a culture cell type derived from epiblast, and were also included. PGCLCs were supposed to be equivalent to E9.5 PGCs based on reporter fluorescent transgene expressions and epigenetic properties, and therefore E9.5 PGCs were also inckuded in this analysis. Because epiblast and E9.5 PGCs are of a small number of cells in embryos (a few hundred to thousand cells), cDNAs were amplified with a quantitative global PCR method (Kurimoto et al., 2006, Nucleic Acids Research) for microarray analyses. We took two biological replicate for each cell type.
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.