Negative elongation factor (NELF) is a critical transcriptional regulator that stabilizes paused RNA polymerase to permit rapid gene expression changes in response to environmental cues. Although NELF is essential for embryonic development, its role in adult stem cells remains unclear. In this study, through a muscle-stem-cell-specific deletion, we showed that NELF is required for efficient muscle regeneration and stem cell pool replenishment. In mechanistic studies using PRO-seq, single-cell trajectory analyses and myofiber cultures revealed that NELF works at a specific stage of regeneration whereby it modulates p53 signaling to permit massive expansion of muscle progenitors. Strikingly, transplantation experiments indicated that these progenitors are also necessary for stem cell pool repopulation, implying that they are able to return to quiescence. Thus, we identified a critical role for NELF in the expansion of muscle progenitors in response to injury and revealed that progenitors returning to quiescence are major contributors to the stem cell pool repopulation.
Throughout development, cell fate decisions are converted into epigenetic information that determines cellular identity. Covalent histone modifications are heritable epigenetic marks and are hypothesized to play a central role in this process. In this report, we assess the concordance of histone H3 lysine 4 dimethylation (H3K4me2) and trimethylation (H3K4me3) on a genome-wide scale in erythroid development by analyzing pluripotent, multipotent, and unipotent cell types. Although H3K4me2 and H3K4me3 are concordant at most genes, multipotential hematopoietic cells have a subset of genes that are differentially methylated (H3K4me2+/me3-). These genes are transcriptionally silent, highly enriched in lineage-specific hematopoietic genes, and uniquely susceptible to differentiation-induced H3K4 demethylation. Self-renewing embryonic stem cells, which restrict H3K4 methylation to genes that contain CpG islands (CGIs), lack H3K4me2+/me3- genes. These data reveal distinct epigenetic regulation of CGI and non-CGI genes during development and indicate an interactive relationship between DNA sequence and differential H3K4 methylation in lineage-specific differentiation.