Human Primordial Germ Cells Are Specified from Lineage-Primed Progenitors.
ABSTRACT: In vitro gametogenesis is the process of making germline cells from human pluripotent stem cells. The foundation of this model is the quality of the first progenitors called primordial germ cells (PGCs), which in vivo are specified during the peri-implantation window of human development. Here, we show that human PGC (hPGC) specification begins at day 12 post-fertilization. Using single-cell RNA sequencing of hPGC-like cells (hPGCLCs) differentiated from pluripotent stem cells, we discovered that hPGCLC specification involves resetting pluripotency toward a transitional state with shared characteristics between naive and primed pluripotency, followed by differentiation into lineage-primed TFAP2A+ progenitors. Applying the germline trajectory to TFAP2C mutants reveals that TFAP2C functions in the TFAP2A+ progenitors upstream of PRDM1 to regulate the expression of SOX17. This serves to protect hPGCLCs from crossing the Weismann's barrier to adopt somatic cell fates and, therefore, is an essential mechanism for successfully initiating in vitro gametogenesis.
Project description:Human primordial germ cells (hPGCs) are the first embryonic progenitors in the germ cell lineage, yet the molecular mechanisms required for hPGC formation are not well characterized. To identify regulatory regions in hPGC development, we used the assay for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing (ATAC-seq) to systematically characterize regions of open chromatin in hPGCs and hPGC-like cells (hPGCLCs) differentiated from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). We discovered regions of open chromatin unique to hPGCs and hPGCLCs that significantly overlap with TFAP2C-bound enhancers identified in the naive ground state of pluripotency. Using CRISPR/Cas9, we show that deleting the TFAP2C-bound naive enhancer at the OCT4 locus (also called POU5F1) results in impaired OCT4 expression and a negative effect on hPGCLC identity.
Project description:Specification of primordial germ cells (PGCs) marks the beginning of the totipotent state. However, without a tractable experimental model, the mechanism of human PGC (hPGC) specification remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate specification of hPGC-like cells (hPGCLCs) from germline competent pluripotent stem cells. The characteristics of hPGCLCs are consistent with the embryonic hPGCs and a germline seminoma that share a CD38 cell-surface marker, which collectively defines likely progression of the early human germline. Remarkably, SOX17 is the key regulator of hPGC-like fate, whereas BLIMP1 represses endodermal and other somatic genes during specification of hPGCLCs. Notable mechanistic differences between mouse and human PGC specification could be attributed to their divergent embryonic development and pluripotent states, which might affect other early cell-fate decisions. We have established a foundation for future studies on resetting of the epigenome in hPGCLCs and hPGCs for totipotency and the transmission of genetic and epigenetic information.
Project description:PRDM14 is a crucial regulator of mouse primordial germ cells (mPGCs), epigenetic reprogramming and pluripotency, but its role in the evolutionarily divergent regulatory network of human PGCs (hPGCs) remains unclear. Besides, a previous knockdown study indicated that PRDM14 might be dispensable for human germ cell fate. Here, we decided to use inducible degrons for a more rapid and comprehensive PRDM14 depletion. We show that PRDM14 loss results in significantly reduced specification efficiency and an aberrant transcriptome of hPGC-like cells (hPGCLCs) obtained in vitro from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Chromatin immunoprecipitation and transcriptomic analyses suggest that PRDM14 cooperates with TFAP2C and BLIMP1 to upregulate germ cell and pluripotency genes, while repressing WNT signalling and somatic markers. Notably, PRDM14 targets are not conserved between mouse and human, emphasising the divergent molecular mechanisms of PGC specification. The effectiveness of degrons for acute protein depletion is widely applicable in various developmental contexts.
Project description:Specification of primordial germ cells (PGCs) marks the beginning of the totipotent state. However, without a tractable experimental model, the mechanism of human PGC (hPGC) specification remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate specification of hPGC-like cells (hPGCLCs) from germline competent pluripotent stem cells. The characteristics of hPGCLCs are consistent with the embryonic hPGCs and a germline seminoma that share a CD38 cell-surface marker, which collectively defines likely progression of the early human germline. Remarkably, SOX17 is the key regulator of hPGC-like fate, whereas BLIMP1 represses endodermal and other somatic genes during specification of hPGCLCs. Notable mechanistic differences between mouse and human PGC specification could be attributed to their divergent embryonic development and pluripotent states, which might affect other early cell-fate decisions. We have established a foundation for future studies on resetting of the epigenome in hPGCLCs and hPGCs for totipotency and the transmission of genetic and epigenetic information. RNA-Seq analysis to investigate transcriptomes of hPGC-like cells (hPGCLCs), fetal hPGCs, TCam-2 and hESCs
Project description:BACKGROUND:As the precursors of sperm and eggs, human primordial germ cells (hPGCs) emerge as early as weeks 2 to 3 of post-implantation development. Recently, robust hPGC induction models have been established in vitro with different protocols, but global 5mC/5hmC epigenetic reprogramming is not initiated in vitro. Previous studies found that vitamin C can enhance Tet (ten-eleven translocation) enzyme expression and improve 5hmC level in cells. But the effect of vitamin C supplementation on hPGC in vitro induction is still unknown. METHODS:We generated a gene-edited human embryonic stem cell (hESC) line carrying a BLIMP1-mkate2 reporter by CRISPR/Cas9 technology and used flow cytometry to optimize the PGC differentiation protocol; meanwhile, the expression of PGC genes (BLIMP1, TFAP2C, SOX17, OCT4) was evaluated by qRT-PCR. When different concentrations of vitamin C were added to the induction medium, the percentage of hPGCLCs (hPGC-like cells) was analyzed by flow cytometry; dot blot and ELISA were used to detect the levels of 5hmC and 5mC. The expression of TET enzymes was also evaluated by qRT-PCR. RESULTS:We optimized the PGC differentiation protocol with the BLIMP1-mkate reporter hESCs, and the efficiency of PGC induction in vitro can be improved to 30~40%. When 50??g/mL vitamin C was added, the derived hPGCLCs not only upregulated the expression of key genes involved in human early germ cell development such as NANOS3, TFAP2C, BLIMP1, and SOX17, but also increased the levels of 5hmC and TET enzymes. CONCLUSIONS:Taken together, supplementation of vitamin C can promote the in vitro induction of hPGCLCs from hESCs, which might be related to vitamin C-mediated epigenetic regulations during the differentiation process.
Project description:Pluripotent stem cell-derived human primordial germ cell-like cells (hPGCLCs) provide important opportunities to study primordial germ cells (PGCs). We robustly produced CD38+ hPGCLCs [?43% of FACS-sorted embryoid body (EB) cells] from primed-state induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) after a 72-hour transient incubation in the four chemical inhibitors (4i)-naïve reprogramming medium and showed transcriptional consistency of our hPGCLCs with hPGCLCs generated in previous studies using various and distinct protocols. Both CD38+ hPGCLCs and CD38- EB cells significantly expressed PRDM1 and TFAP2C, although PRDM1 mRNA in CD38- cells lacked the 3'-UTR harboring miRNA binding sites regulating mRNA stability. Genes up-regulated in hPGCLCs were enriched for cell migration genes, and their promoters were enriched for the binding motifs of TFAP2 (which was identified in promoters of T, NANOS3, and SOX17) and the RREB-1 cell adhesion regulator. In EBs, hPGCLCs were identified exclusively in the outermost surface monolayer as dispersed cells or cell aggregates with strong and specific expression of POU5F1/OCT4 protein. Time-lapse live cell imaging revealed active migration of hPGCLCs on Matrigel. Whereas all hPGCLCs strongly expressed the CXCR4 chemotaxis receptor, its ligand CXCL12/SDF1 was not significantly expressed in the whole EBs. Exposure of hPGCLCs to CXCL12/SDF1 induced cell migration genes and antiapoptosis genes. Thus, our study shows that transcriptionally consistent hPGCLCs can be readily produced from hiPSCs after transition of their pluripotency from the primed state using various methods and that hPGCLCs resemble the early-stage PGCs randomly migrating in the midline region of human embryos before initiation of the CXCL12/SDF1-guided chemotaxis.
Project description:The mechanism for human germ-cell specification, which sets out a complex program generating spermatozoa or oocytes, remains largely unknown. We established a system for inducing human primordial germ cell-like cells (hPGCLCs) from induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) via incipient mesoderm-like cells (iMeLCs). Here, we show that EOMESODERMIN (EOMES) elevates in iMeLCs through WNT signaling and is essential for activating SOX17, a key driver for hPGC(LC) specification, with the duration/dosage of the WNT signaling/EOMES expression dictating the germ-cell competence. Upon hPGCLC induction, BMP signaling activates TFAP2C independently from SOX17, and SOX17 and TFAP2C instate the hPGCLC program, including BLIMP1 expression, in an interdependent fashion. The hPGC(LC) specification program is highly consistent with the monkey program, but is divergent from the mouse one regarding key transcription factors and their hierarchy of actions. These findings delineate evolutionary divergence of mammalian germ-cell specification, providing a foundation for further human germ-cell development in vitro. Overall design: RNAseq analysis of hiPSCs, iMeLCs and hPGCLCs in multiple knockout/rescued lines
Project description:Which set of antibodies can be used to identify migratory and early post-migratory human primordial germ cells (hPGCs)?We validated the specificity of 33 antibodies for 31 markers, including POU5F1, NANOG, PRDM1 and TFAP2C as specific markers of hPGCs at 4.5 weeks of development of Carnegie stage (CS12-13), whereas KIT and SOX17 also marked the intra-aortic hematopoietic stem cell cluster in the aorta-gonad-mesonephros (AGM).The dynamics of gene expression during germ cell development in mice is well characterized and this knowledge has proved crucial to allow the development of protocols for the in vitro derivation of functional gametes. Although there is a great interest in generating human gametes in vitro, it is still unclear which markers are expressed during the early stages of hPGC development and many studies use markers described in mouse to benchmark differentiation of human PGC-like cells (hPGCLCs). Early post-implantation development differs significantly between mice and humans, and so some germ cells markers, including SOX2, SOX17, IFITM3 and ITGA6 may not identify mPGCs and hPGCs equally well.This immunofluorescence study investigated the expression of putative hPGC markers in the caudal part of a single human embryo at 4.5 weeks of development.We have investigated by immunofluorescence the expression of a set of 33 antibodies for 31 markers, including pluripotency, germ cell, adhesion, migration, surface, mesenchymal and epigenetic markers on paraffin sections of the caudal part, including the AGM region, of a single human embryo (CS12-13). The human material used was anonymously donated with informed consent from elective abortions without medical indication.We observed germ cell specific expression of NANOG, TFAP2C and PRDM1 in POU5F1+ hPGCs in the AGM. The epigenetic markers H3K27me3 and 5mC were sufficient to distinguish hPGCs from the surrounding somatic cells. Some mPGC-markers were not detected in hPGCs, but marked other tissues; whereas other markers, such as ALPL, SOX17, KIT, TUBB3, ITGA6 marked both POU5F1+ hPGCs and other cells in the AGM. We used a combination of multiple markers, immunostaining different cellular compartments when feasible, to decrease the chance of misidentifying hPGCs.Non-applicable.Material to study early human development is unique and very rare thus restricting the sample size. We have used a combination of antibodies limited by the number of paraffin sections available.Most of our knowledge on early gametogenesis has been obtained from model organisms such as mice and is extrapolated to humans. However, since there is a dedicated effort to produce human artificial gametes in vitro, it is of great importance to determine the expression and specificity of human-specific germ cell markers. We provide a systematic analysis of the expression of 31 different markers in paraffin sections of a CS12-13 embryo. Our results will help to set up a toolbox of markers to evaluate protocols to induce hPGCLCs in vitro.M.G.F. was funded by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) [SFRH/BD/78689/2011] and S.M.C.S.L. was funded by the Interuniversity Attraction Poles (IAP, P7/07) and the European Research Council Consolidator (ERC-CoG-725722-OVOGROWTH). The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Project description:Pluripotent stem cell-derived human primordial germ cell (PGC)-like cells (hPGCLCs) may provide important opportunities to study human PGCs. We produced CD38+ hPGCLCs with a high efficiency [~43% of FACS-sorted embryoid body (EB) cells] from primed-pluripotency induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) via 72-hour reprogramming towards ERK-independent naïve pluripotency. RNA-seq confirmed transcriptomal consistency of our hPGCLCs with hPGCLCs previously produced using various other methods. Immunohistochemical studies identified hPGCLCs exclusively at the outermost surface layer of EBs mostly as scattered cells, and live cell imaging revealed actively migrating hPGCLCs forming cellular protrusions. Both CD38+ hPGCLCs and CD38- EB cells significantly expressed PRDM1 and TFAP2C, but PRDM1 mRNA of CD38- cells lacked the 3’-untranslated region with let-7 and other miRNA binding sites known to regulate PRDM1 mRNA stability. Genes expressed specifically in hPGCLCs included early-PGC markers KIT, NANOS3, and SOX17, and cell migration genes, and their promoter sequences were enriched with TFAP2C binding motif. Whereas all hPGCLCs strongly expressed the CXCR4 chemotaxis receptor, its ligand CXCL12/SDF1 was not significantly expressed in the whole EBs. Exposure of hPGCLCs to CXCL12/SDF1 induced cell migration and anti-apoptosis genes; in contrast, genes involved in nuclear division were suppressed. Our study demonstrates a transcriptomal consistency of hPGCLCs produced using varying methods as well as distinct roles and/or regulation of PRDM1 and TFAP2C expression in development of human and mouse PGCs. Relevance of hPGCLCs to early-stage human embryonic PGCs randomly migrating in the midline region of human embryos before initiating directional chemotaxis under CXCR4-CXCL12/SDF1 signaling has also been suggested. Overall design: Human iPS cells with primed pluripotency were converted to naïve pluripotency for 72 hours and then subjected to embryoid body formation, from which CD38-positive PGC-like cells and CD38-negative cells were isolated by FACS. Total RNA was extracted from FACS-enriched cells and subjected to RNA-seq.
Project description:To elucidate the molecular basis of BMP4-induced differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) toward progeny with trophectoderm characteristics, we produced transcriptome, epigenome H3K4me3, H3K27me3, and CpG methylation maps of trophoblast progenitors, purified using the surface marker APA. We combined them with the temporally resolved transcriptome of the preprogenitor phase and of single APA+ cells. This revealed a circuit of bivalent TFAP2A, TFAP2C, GATA2, and GATA3 transcription factors, coined collectively the "trophectoderm four" (TEtra), which are also present in human trophectoderm in vivo. At the onset of differentiation, the TEtra factors occupy multiple sites in epigenetically inactive placental genes and in OCT4 Functional manipulation of GATA3 and TFAP2A indicated that they directly couple trophoblast-specific gene induction with suppression of pluripotency. In accordance, knocking down GATA3 in primate embryos resulted in a failure to form trophectoderm. The discovery of the TEtra circuit indicates how trophectoderm commitment is regulated in human embryogenesis.