Endogenous fluctuations of OCT4 and SOX2 bias pluripotent cell fate decisions
ABSTRACT: 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. 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. Overall design: Cells were subjected to ATAC-seq by Tn5 transposition or to ChIP-seq by immunoprecipitation
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: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: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: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:Methodologies to reprogram somatic cells into patient-specific pluripotent cells, which could potentially be used in personalized drug discovery and cell replacement therapies, are currently under development. Oct4 activation is essential for successful reprogramming and pluripotency of embryonic stem (ES) cells, albeit molecular details of Oct4 activation are not completely understood. Here we report that endogenous SAF-A is involved in regulation of Oct4 expression, binds the Oct4 proximal promoter in ES cells, and dissociates from the promoter upon early differentiation induced by LIF withdrawal. Depletion of SAF-A decreases Oct4 expression even in the presence of LIF, and results in an increase of the mesodermal marker Brachyury. The overexpression of wild-type human SAF-A rescues the mouse knock-down phenotype and results in increased Oct4 level. We also demonstrate that endogenous SAF-A interacts with the C-terminal domain (CTD) of endogenous RNA polymerase II and that the interaction is independent of CTD phosphorylation and mRNA. Moreover, we show that SAF-A exist in complexes with transcription factors Sox2 and Oct4 as well as STAT3 in ES cells. The number of endogenous SAF-A:Oct4 and SAF-A:Sox2 complexes decreases upon LIF depletion. These discoveries allow us to propose a model for activation of Oct4 transcription.
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:BACKGROUND:Mesendodermal formation during early gastrulation requires the expression of lineage-specific genes, while the regulatory mechanisms during this process have not yet been fully illustrated. TATA box-binding protein (TBP) and TBP-like factors are general transcription factors responsible for the transcription initiation by recruiting the preinitiation complex to promoter regions. However, the role of TBP family members in the regulation of mesendodermal specification remains largely unknown. METHODS:We used an in vitro mesendodermal differentiation system of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), combining with the microarray and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) analysis, loss of function and gain of function to determine the function of the TBP family member TBP-related factor 3 (TRF3) during mesendodermal differentiation of hESCs. The chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and biochemistry analysis were used to determine the binding of TRF3 to the promoter region of key mesendodermal genes. RESULTS:The mesendodermal differentiation of hESCs was confirmed by the microarray gene expression profile, qRT-PCR, and immunocytochemical staining. The expression of TRF3 mRNA was enhanced during mesendodermal differentiation of hESCs. The TRF3 deficiency did not affect the pluripotent marker expression, alkaline phosphatase activity, and cell cycle distribution of undifferentiated hESCs or the expression of early neuroectodermal genes during neuroectodermal differentiation. During the mesendodermal differentiation, the expression of pluripotency markers decreased in both wild-type and TRF3 knockout (TRF3-/-) cells, while the TRF3 deficiency crippled the expression of the mesendodermal markers. The reintroduction of TRF3 into the TRF3-/- hESCs rescued inhibited mesendodermal differentiation. Mechanistically, the TRF3 binding profile was significantly shifted to the mesendodermal specification during mesendodermal differentiation of hESCs based on the ChIP-seq data. Moreover, ChIP and ChIP-qPCR analysis showed that TRF3 was enriched at core promoter regions of mesendodermal developmental genes, EOMESODERMIN, BRACHYURY, mix paired-like homeobox, and GOOSECOID homeobox, during mesendodermal differentiation of hESCs. CONCLUSIONS:These results reveal that the TBP family member TRF3 is dispensable in the undifferentiated hESCs and the early neuroectodermal differentiation. However, it directs mesendodermal lineage commitment of hESCs via specifically promoting the transcription of key mesendodermal transcription factors. These findings provide new insights into the function and mechanisms of the TBP family member in hESC early lineage specification.
Project description:Human male germ cell tumors (GCTs) are derived from primordial germ cells (PGCs). The master pluripotency regulator and neuroectodermal lineage effector transcription factor SOX2 is repressed in PGCs and the seminoma (SEM) subset of GCTs. The mechanism of SOX2 repression and its significance to GC and GCT development currently are not understood. Here, we show that SOX2 repression in SEM-derived TCam-2 cells is mediated by the Polycomb repressive complex (PcG) and the repressive H3K27me3 chromatin mark that are enriched at its promoter. Furthermore, SOX2 repression in TCam-2 cells can be abrogated by recruitment of the constitutively expressed H3K27 demethylase UTX to the SOX2 promoter through retinoid signaling, leading to expression of neuronal and other lineage genes. SOX17 has been shown to initiate human PGC specification, with its target PRDM1 suppressing mesendodermal genes. Our results are consistent with a role for SOX2 repression in normal germline development by suppressing neuroectodermal genes.
Project description:There is evidence that pluripotency of mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells is associated with the activity of a network of transcription factors with Sox2, Oct4, and Nanog at the core. Using fluorescent reporters for the expression of Nanog, we observed that a population of ES cells is best described by a dynamic distribution of Nanog expression characterized by two peaks defined by high (HN) and low (LN) Nanog expression. Typically, the LN state is 5%-20% of the total population, depending on the culture conditions. Modelling of the activity of Nanog reveals that a simple network of Oct4/Sox2 and Nanog activity can account for the observed distribution and its properties as long as the transcriptional activity is tuned by transcriptional noise. The model also predicts that the LN state is unstable, something that is born out experimentally. While in this state, cells can differentiate. We suggest that transcriptional fluctuations in Nanog expression are an essential element of the pluripotent state and that the function of Sox2, Oct4, and Nanog is to act as a network that promotes and maintains transcriptional noise to interfere with the differentiation signals.
Project description:The transcription factors Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog have essential roles in early development and are required for the propagation of undifferentiated embryonic stem (ES) cells in culture. To gain insights into transcriptional regulation of human ES cells, we have identified Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog target genes using genome-scale location analysis. We found, surprisingly, that Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog co-occupy a substantial portion of their target genes. These target genes frequently encode transcription factors, many of which are developmentally important homeodomain proteins. Our data also indicates that Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog collaborate to form regulatory circuitry in ES cells consisting of autoregulatory and feedforward loops. These results provide new insights into the transcriptional regulation of stem cells and reveal how Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog contribute to pluripotency and self-renewal.