Blastocyst-derived embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and gonad-derived embryonic germ cells (EGCs) represent two classic types of pluripotent cell lines, yet their molecular equivalence remains incompletely understood. Here, we compare genome-wide methylation patterns between isogenic ESC and EGC lines to define epigenetic similarities and differences. Surprisingly, we find that sex rather than cell type drives methylation patterns in ESCs and EGCs. Cell fusion experiments further reveal that the ratio of X chromosomes to autosomes dictates methylation levels, with female hybrids being hypomethylated and male hybrids being hypermethylated. We show that the X-linked MAPK phosphatase DUSP9 is upregulated in female compared to male ESCs, and its heterozygous loss in female ESCs leads to male-like methylation levels. However, male and female blastocysts are similarly hypomethylated, indicating that sex-specific methylation differences arise in culture. Collectively, our data demonstrate the epigenetic similarity of sex-matched ESCs and EGCs and identify DUSP9 as a regulator of female-specific hypomethylation.
Cheloufi S, Elling U, Hopfgartner B, Jung YL, Murn J, Ninova M, Hubmann M, Badeaux AI, Euong Ang C, Tenen D, Wesche DJ, Abazova N, Hogue M, Tasdemir N, Brumbaugh J, Rathert P, Jude J, Ferrari F, Blanco A, Fellner M, Wenzel D, Zinner M, Vidal SE, Bell O, Stadtfeld M, Chang HY, Almouzni G, Lowe SW, Rinn J, Wernig M, Aravin A, Shi Y, Park PJ, Penninger JM, Zuber J, Hochedlinger K. The histone chaperone CAF-1 safeguards somatic cell identity. Nature 2015;528(7581):218-24.Abstract
Cellular differentiation involves profound remodelling of chromatic landscapes, yet the mechanisms by which somatic cell identity is subsequently maintained remain incompletely understood. To further elucidate regulatory pathways that safeguard the somatic state, we performed two comprehensive RNA interference (RNAi) screens targeting chromatin factors during transcription-factor-mediated reprogramming of mouse fibroblasts to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). Subunits of the chromatin assembly factor-1 (CAF-1) complex, including Chaf1a and Chaf1b, emerged as the most prominent hits from both screens, followed by modulators of lysine sumoylation and heterochromatin maintenance. Optimal modulation of both CAF-1 and transcription factor levels increased reprogramming efficiency by several orders of magnitude and facilitated iPS cell formation in as little as 4 days. Mechanistically, CAF-1 suppression led to a more accessible chromatin structure at enhancer elements early during reprogramming. These changes were accompanied by a decrease in somatic heterochromatin domains, increased binding of Sox2 to pluripotency-specific targets and activation of associated genes. Notably, suppression of CAF-1 also enhanced the direct conversion of B cells into macrophages and fibroblasts into neurons. Together, our findings reveal the histone chaperone CAF-1 to be a novel regulator of somatic cell identity during transcription-factor-induced cell-fate transitions and provide a potential strategy to modulate cellular plasticity in a regenerative setting.
The equivalence of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) remains controversial. Here we use genetically matched hESC and hiPSC lines to assess the contribution of cellular origin (hESC vs. hiPSC), the Sendai virus (SeV) reprogramming method and genetic background to transcriptional and DNA methylation patterns while controlling for cell line clonality and sex. We find that transcriptional and epigenetic variation originating from genetic background dominates over variation due to cellular origin or SeV infection. Moreover, the 49 differentially expressed genes we detect between genetically matched hESCs and hiPSCs neither predict functional outcome nor distinguish an independently derived, larger set of unmatched hESC and hiPSC lines. We conclude that hESCs and hiPSCs are molecularly and functionally equivalent and cannot be distinguished by a consistent gene expression signature. Our data further imply that genetic background variation is a major confounding factor for transcriptional and epigenetic comparisons of pluripotent cell lines, explaining some of the previously observed differences between genetically unmatched hESCs and hiPSCs.
The chromatin state of pluripotency genes has been studied extensively in embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and differentiated cells, but their potential interactions with other parts of the genome remain largely unexplored. Here, we identified a genome-wide, pluripotency-specific interaction network around the Nanog promoter by adapting circular chromosome conformation capture sequencing. This network was rearranged during differentiation and restored in induced pluripotent stem cells. A large fraction of Nanog-interacting loci were bound by Mediator or cohesin in pluripotent cells. Depletion of these proteins from ESCs resulted in a disruption of contacts and the acquisition of a differentiation-specific interaction pattern prior to obvious transcriptional and phenotypic changes. Similarly, the establishment of Nanog interactions during reprogramming often preceded transcriptional upregulation of associated genes, suggesting a causative link. Our results document a complex, pluripotency-specific chromatin "interactome" for Nanog and suggest a functional role for long-range genomic interactions in the maintenance and induction of pluripotency.
The generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) often results in aberrant epigenetic silencing of the imprinted Dlk1-Dio3 gene cluster, compromising the ability to generate entirely iPSC-derived adult mice ('all-iPSC mice'). Here, we show that reprogramming in the presence of ascorbic acid attenuates hypermethylation of Dlk1-Dio3 by enabling a chromatin configuration that interferes with binding of the de novo DNA methyltransferase Dnmt3a. This approach allowed us to generate all-iPSC mice from mature B cells, which have until now failed to support the development of exclusively iPSC-derived postnatal animals. Our data show that transcription factor-mediated reprogramming can endow a defined, terminally differentiated cell type with a developmental potential equivalent to that of embryonic stem cells. More generally, these findings indicate that culture conditions during cellular reprogramming can strongly influence the epigenetic and biological properties of the resultant iPSCs.