TGF-β-Superfamily Signaling Regulates Embryonic Stem Cell Heterogeneity: Self-Renewal as a Dynamic and Regulated Equilibrium

Department of Pathology and Laboratory, Institute for Reproductive Health and Regenerative Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center.
Stem Cells (Impact Factor: 7.7). 01/2013; 31(1). DOI: 10.1002/stem.1252
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Embryonic stem cells dynamically fluctuate between phenotypic states, as defined by expression levels of genes such as Nanog, while remaining pluripotent. The dynamic phenotype of stem cells is in part determined by gene expression control and dictated by various signaling pathways and transcriptional regulators. We sought to define the activities of two TGF-beta-related signaling pathways, Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and Nodal signaling, in modulating mouse embryonic stem cell heterogeneity in undifferentiated culture conditions. Both BMP and Nodal signaling pathways were seen to be active in distinct Nanog subpopulations, with subtle quantitative differences in activity. Pharmacological and genetic modulation of BMP or Nodal signaling strongly influenced the heterogeneous state of undifferentiated ES cells, as assessed by dynamic expression of Nanog reporters. Inhibition of Nodal signaling enhanced BMP activity, which through the downstream target Id factors, enhanced the capacity of ES cells to remain in the Nanog-high epigenetic state. The combined inhibition of Nodal and BMP signaling resulted the accumulation of Nanog-negative cells, even in the presence of LIF, uncovering a shared role for BMP and Nodal signaling in maintaining Nanog expression and repression of differentiation. These results demonstrate a complex requirement for both arms of TGF-beta-related signaling to influence the dynamic cellular phenotype of undifferentiated ES cells in serum-based media, and that differing subpopulations of ES cells in heterogeneous culture have distinct responses to these signaling pathways. Several pathways, including BMP, Nodal, and FGF signaling, have important regulatory function in defining the steady-state distribution of heterogeneity of stem cells.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Neural progenitor cells (NPCs) derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) are a multipotent cell population that is capable of nearly indefinite expansion and subsequent differentiation into the various neuronal and supporting cell types that comprise the CNS. However, current protocols for differentiating NPCs toward neuronal lineages result in a mixture of neurons from various regions of the CNS. In this study, we determined that endogenous WNT signaling is a primary contributor to the heterogeneity observed in NPC cultures and neuronal differentiation. Furthermore, exogenous manipulation of WNT signaling during neural differentiation, through either activation or inhibition, reduces this heterogeneity in NPC cultures, thereby promoting the formation of regionally homogeneous NPC and neuronal cultures. The ability to manipulate WNT signaling to generate regionally specific NPCs and neurons will be useful for studying human neural development and will greatly enhance the translational potential of hPSCs for neural-related therapies. Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    11/2014; 3(6). DOI:10.1016/j.stemcr.2014.10.004
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Intestinal stem cells (ISCs) are a group of rare cells located in the intestinal crypts which are responsible for the maintenance of the intestinal epithelial homeostasis and regeneration following injury or inflammation. Lineage tracing experiments in mice have proven that ISCs can repopulate the entire intestinal crypt. It is noteworthy that in such experiments, only a subset of intestinal crypts is marked by the specific marker. This is suggestive of different levels of activity of stem cells in different crypts i.e. intracryptal variation. Niche succession i.e. dominating the entire crypt by the progenies of one stem cell is also suggestive of the intercryptal stem cell heterogeneity. Regional differences in crypt size, proliferative index, and distribution of proliferative cells along the crypt axis have been reported. It is conceivable that ISCs are heterogeneous in terms of their levels of activity. Appreciation of such heterogeneity will significantly challenge the way in which ISCs are investigated. A better understanding of ISC biology will in turn improve our mechanistic understanding of major intestinal disease including inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer.
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background The maintenance of stem cell pluripotency is controlled by a core cluster of transcription factors, NANOG, OCT4 and SOX2 ¿ genes that jointly regulate each other¿s expression. The expression of some of these genes, especially of Nanog, is heterogeneous in a population of undifferentiated stem cells in culture. Transient changes in expression levels, as well as heterogeneity of the population is not restricted to this core regulator, but involve a large number of other genes that include growth factors, transcription factors or signal transduction proteins.ResultsAs the molecular mechanisms behind NANOG expression heterogeneity is not yet understood, we explore by computational modeling the core transcriptional regulatory circuit and its input from autocrine FGF signals that act through the MAP kinase cascade. We argue that instead of negative feedbacks within the core NANOG-OCT4-SOX2 transcriptional regulatory circuit, autocrine signaling loops such as the Esrrb - FGF - ERK feedback considered here are likely to generate distinct sub-states within the ¿ON¿ state of the core Nanog switch. Thus, the experimentally observed fluctuations in Nanog transcription levels are best explained as noise-induced transitions between negative feedback-generated sub-states. We also demonstrate that ERK phosphorilation is altered and being anti-correlated with fluctuating Nanog expression ¿ in accord with model simulations. Our modeling approach assigns an empirically testable function to the transcriptional regulators Klf4 and Esrrb, and predict differential regulation of FGF family members.Conclusions We argue that slow fluctuations in Nanog expression likely reflect individual cell-specific changes in parameters of an autocrine feedback loop, such as changes in ligand capture efficiency, receptor numbers or the presence of crosstalks within the MAPK signal transduction pathway. We proposed a model that operates with binding affinities of multiple transcriptional regulators of pluripotency, and the activity of an autocrine signaling pathway. The resulting model produces varied expression levels of several components of pluripotency regulation, largely consistent with empirical observations reported previously and in this present work.
    BMC Systems Biology 09/2014; 8(1):112. DOI:10.1186/s12918-014-0112-4 · 2.85 Impact Factor