Kenneth S Zaret

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

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Publications (108)1101.62 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Endoderm cells undergo sequential fate choices to generate insulin-secreting beta cells. Ezh2 of the PRC2 complex, which generates H3K27me3, modulates the transition from endoderm to pancreas progenitors, but the role of Ezh2 and H3K27me3 in the next transition to endocrine progenitors is unknown. We isolated endoderm cells, pancreas progenitors, and endocrine progenitors from different staged mouse embryos and analyzed H3K27me3 genome-wide. Unlike the decline in H3K27me3 domains reported during embryonic stem cell differentiation in vitro, we find that H3K27me3 domains increase in number during endocrine progenitor development in vivo. Genes that lose the H3K27me3 mark typically encode transcriptional regulators, including those for pro-endocrine fates, whereas genes that acquire the mark typically are involved in cell biology and morphogenesis. Deletion of Ezh2 at the pancreas progenitor stage enhanced the production of endocrine progenitors and beta cells. Inhibition of EZH2 in embryonic pancreas explants and in human embryonic stem cell cultures increased endocrine progenitors in vitro. Our studies reveal distinct dynamics in H3K27me3 targets in vivo and a means to modulate beta cell development from stem cells.
    The EMBO Journal 08/2014; · 9.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Despite the tremendous hurdles presented by the complexity of the liver's structure and function, advances in liver physiology, stem cell biology and reprogramming, and the engineering of tissues and devices are accelerating the development of cell-based therapies for treating liver disease and liver failure. This State of the Art Review discusses both the near- and long-term prospects for such cell-based therapies and the unique challenges for clinical translation.
    Science translational medicine 07/2014; 6(245):245sr2. · 10.76 Impact Factor
  • Kenneth S Zaret
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    ABSTRACT: Transcription is silenced during mitosis and reactivated at mitotic exit. The dynamics and identities of "bookmarking" transcription factors and chromatin marks that mediate reactivation often recapitulate those observed during cell identity establishment in development. Thus, features of postmitotic gene reactivation can provide insights into mechanisms of developmental cell fate establishment.
    Developmental Cell 04/2014; 29(2):132-134. · 12.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the pancreas, α and β cells possess a degree of plasticity. In vitro differentiation of pluripotent cells yields mostly α and polyhormonal β-like cells, indicating a gap in understanding of how functional monohormonal β cells are formed and the endogenous repressive mechanisms used to maintain β cell identity. Here, we show that the corepressor Grg3 is expressed in almost all β cells throughout embryogenesis to adulthood. However, Grg3 is expressed in fewer nascent α cells and is progressively lost from α cells as endocrine cells mature into adulthood. We show that mouse Grg3+/- β cells have increased α-specific gene expression, and Grg3+/- pancreata have more α cells and more polyhormonal cells indicating that Grg3 is required for the physiologic maintenance of monohormonal β cell identity. Ectopic expression of Grg3 in α cells represses Glucagon and Arx, and the further addition of Pdx1 induces Glut2 expression and glucose-responsive insulin secretion. Furthermore, we found that Grg1 is the predominant Groucho expressed in human β cells but acts functionally similar to Grg3. Overall, we find that Grg3 and Grg1 establish a monohormonal β cell identity and Groucho-family members may be useful tools or markers for making functional β cells.
    Diabetes 01/2014; · 7.90 Impact Factor
  • Kenneth S Zaret
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    ABSTRACT: Fred Sherman was a prominent yeast geneticist and my mentor in graduate school. Fred passed away in September 2013 at the age of 81. In this minireview, I describe what it was like to know Fred and be in his lab from 1977 to 1982, the extraordinarily exciting time when the recombinant DNA revolution hit yeast genetics.
    Molecular and Cellular Biology 12/2013; · 5.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) carries a dismal prognosis and lacks a human cell model of early disease progression. When human PDAC cells are injected into immunodeficient mice, they generate advanced-stage cancer. We hypothesized that if human PDAC cells were converted to pluripotency and then allowed to differentiate back into pancreatic tissue, they might undergo early stages of cancer. Although most induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines were not of the expected cancer genotype, one PDAC line, 10-22 cells, when injected into immunodeficient mice, generated pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) precursors to PDAC that progressed to the invasive stage. The PanIN-like cells secrete or release proteins from many genes that are known to be expressed in human pancreatic cancer progression and that predicted an HNF4α network in intermediate-stage lesions. Thus, rare events allow iPSC technology to provide a live human cell model of early pancreatic cancer and insights into disease progression.
    Cell Reports 06/2013; · 7.21 Impact Factor
  • Abdenour Soufi, Kenneth S Zaret
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    ABSTRACT: In all known cases of transcription factor (TF)-based reprogramming, the process is relatively slow and inefficient. For example, it takes about a month for the ectopic expression of the transcription factors Oct4, Sox2, Klf4 and c-Myc (OSKM) to fully reprogram human somatic cells to pluripotency. Furthermore, recent studies indicate that there is an initial stochastic phase, whereby random cells in the converting population begin to express a few genes of the new fate, followed by a so-called deterministic phase, whereby activation of a network for the new fate leads to homogeneous changes in gene expression patterns within a subset of the cell population. We recently mapped the initial interactions between OSKM factors and the human genome during the first 48 h of human fibroblast conversion to pluripotency. Unlike that reported in ES and iPS cells, distal enhancer sites in closed chromatin dominate the initial O, S, K and M binding distribution, showing that promoter occupancy is a later event in reprogramming. O, S and K act as pioneer factors for c-Myc, and c-Myc enhances the engagement of O, S and K. Despite the ability of OSKM to access closed chromatin, megabase-scale chromatin regions in somatic cells, referred to as "differentially bound regions" (DBRs), are remarkably refractory to OSKM binding at 48 h, though they become bound in pluripotent cells. These DBRs are highly enriched for the repressive H3K9me3 mark and span genes at the top of the deterministic hierarchy. Transient knockdown of the relevant chromatin modifiers allows access of OSKM to DBRs and a more rapid and efficient conversion to pluripotency. Thus, overcoming DBR barriers helps explain the conversion from a stochastic to a deterministic phase of transcription factor-mediated cell type conversion.
    Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) 04/2013; 12(10). · 5.24 Impact Factor
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    Epigenetics & Chromatin 03/2013; 6(1). · 4.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: While most transcription factors exit the chromatin during mitosis and the genome becomes silent, a subset of factors remains and "bookmarks" genes for rapid reactivation as cells progress through the cell cycle. However, it is unknown whether such bookmarking factors bind to chromatin similarly in mitosis and how different binding capacities among them relate to function. We compared a diverse set of transcription factors involved in liver differentiation and found markedly different extents of mitotic chromosome binding. Among them, the pioneer factor FoxA1 exhibits the greatest extent of mitotic chromosome binding. Genomically, ∼15% of the FoxA1 interphase target sites are bound in mitosis, including at genes that are important for liver differentiation. Biophysical, genome mapping, and mutagenesis studies of FoxA1 reveals two different modes of binding to mitotic chromatin. Specific binding in mitosis occurs at sites that continue to be bound from interphase. Nonspecific binding in mitosis occurs across the chromosome due to the intrinsic chromatin affinity of FoxA1. Both specific and nonspecific binding contribute to timely reactivation of target genes post-mitosis. These studies reveal an unexpected diversity in the mechanisms by which transcription factors help retain cell identity during mitosis.
    Genes & development 01/2013; · 12.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The paired-box homeodomain transcription factor Pax3 is a key regulator of the nervous system, neural crest and skeletal muscle development. Despite the important role of this transcription factor, very few direct target genes have been characterized. We show that Itm2a, which encodes a type 2 transmembrane protein, is a direct Pax3 target in vivo, by combining genetic approaches and in vivo chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. We have generated a conditional mutant allele for Itm2a, which is an imprinted gene, by flanking exons 2-4 with loxP sites and inserting an IRESnLacZ reporter in the 3' UTR of the gene. The LacZ reporter reproduces the expression profile of Itm2a, and allowed us to further characterize its expression at sites of myogenesis, in the dermomyotome and myotome of somites, and in limb buds, in the mouse embryo. We further show that Itm2a is not only expressed in adult muscle fibres but also in the satellite cells responsible for regeneration. Itm2a mutant mice are viable and fertile with no overt phenotype during skeletal muscle formation or regeneration. Potential compensatory mechanisms are discussed.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(5):e63143. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    Abdenour Soufi, Greg Donahue, Kenneth S Zaret
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    ABSTRACT: The ectopic expression of transcription factors can reprogram cell fate, yet it is unknown how the initial binding of factors to the genome relates functionally to the binding seen in the minority of cells that become reprogrammed. We report a map of Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc (O, S, K, and M) on the human genome during the first 48 hr of reprogramming fibroblasts to pluripotency. Three striking aspects of the initial chromatin binding events include an unexpected role for c-Myc in facilitating OSK chromatin engagement, the primacy of O, S, and K as pioneer factors at enhancers of genes that promote reprogramming, and megabase-scale chromatin domains spanned by H3K9me3, including many genes required for pluripotency, that prevent initial OSKM binding and impede the efficiency of reprogramming. We find diverse aspects of initial factor binding that must be overcome in the minority of cells that become reprogrammed.
    Cell 11/2012; · 31.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Extracellular signals in development, physiology, homeostasis and disease often act by regulating transcription. Herein we describe a general method and specific resources for determining where and when such signaling occurs in live animals and for systematically comparing the timing and extent of different signals in different cellular contexts. We used recombinase-mediated cassette exchange (RMCE) to test the effect of successively deleting conserved genomic regions of the ubiquitously active Rosa26 promoter and substituting the deleted regions for regulatory sequences that respond to diverse extracellular signals. We thereby created an allelic series of embryonic stem cells and mice, each containing a signal-responsive sentinel with different fluorescent reporters that respond with sensitivity and specificity to retinoic acids, bone morphogenic proteins, activin A, Wnts or Notch, and that can be adapted to any pathway that acts via DNA elements.
    Disease Models and Mechanisms 08/2012; · 4.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Pancreatic β-cells arise from Ngn3(+) endocrine progenitors within the trunk epithelium of the embryonic pancreas. The emergence of endocrine cells requires E-cadherin downregulation, but the crucial steps that elicit such are not clear, yet probably important for ultimately being able to efficiently generate β-cells de novo from stem cells. Grg3 (groucho-related gene 3, also known as Tle3), encodes a member of the Groucho/TLE family of co-repressors and its function in various cell contexts is mediated by recruitment to target genes by different transcription factors. Grg proteins broadly regulate the progression of progenitor cells to differentiated cell types, but specific developmental mechanisms have not been clear. We find that Grg3 is expressed in most β-cells and a subset of other endocrine cell types in the pancreas. Grg3 is highly expressed in Ngn3(+) endocrine progenitor descendants just after transient Ngn3 expression. Grg3-null embryos die at E14.5, which is associated with placental defects, so we explanted E12.5 pancreata to allow endocrine differentiation to occur in culture. Grg3 knockout explants displayed a drastic decrease in the differentiation of all endocrine cell types owing to defects in the delamination of early endocrine progenitors from the trunk epithelium. We find that Grg3 normally suppresses E-cadherin gene expression, thereby allowing delamination of endocrine cells from the trunk epithelium and revealing how this transcriptional co-repressor modulates this crucial step of β-cell development.
    Development 04/2012; 139(8):1447-56. · 6.60 Impact Factor
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    Cheng-Ran Xu, Kenneth S Zaret
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the basis for multipotency, whereby stem cells and other progenitors can differentiate into certain tissues and not others, provides insights into the mechanism of cell programming in development, homeostasis, and disease. We recently reported a screen of diverse chromatin marks to obtain clues about chromatin states in the multipotent embryonic endoderm. Genetic and pharmacologic tests of certain marks' function demonstrated that the relevant chromatin modifying factors modulate the fate choice for liver or pancreas induction in the endoderm. The information about chromatin states from embryonic studies can be used to predict lineage-specific developmental potential and chromatin modifiers to enhance particular cell fate transitions from stem cells.
    Nucleus (Austin, Texas) 03/2012; 3(2):150-4.
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    Kenneth S Zaret, Jason S Carroll
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    ABSTRACT: Transcription factors are adaptor molecules that detect regulatory sequences in the DNA and target the assembly of protein complexes that control gene expression. Yet much of the DNA in the eukaryotic cell is in nucleosomes and thereby occluded by histones, and can be further occluded by higher-order chromatin structures and repressor complexes. Indeed, genome-wide location analyses have revealed that, for all transcription factors tested, the vast majority of potential DNA-binding sites are unoccupied, demonstrating the inaccessibility of most of the nuclear DNA. This raises the question of how target sites at silent genes become bound de novo by transcription factors, thereby initiating regulatory events in chromatin. Binding cooperativity can be sufficient for many kinds of factors to simultaneously engage a target site in chromatin and activate gene expression. However, in cases in which the binding of a series of factors is sequential in time and thus not initially cooperative, special "pioneer transcription factors" can be the first to engage target sites in chromatin. Such initial binding can passively enhance transcription by reducing the number of additional factors that are needed to bind the DNA, culminating in activation. In addition, pioneer factor binding can actively open up the local chromatin and directly make it competent for other factors to bind. Passive and active roles for the pioneer factor FoxA occur in embryonic development, steroid hormone induction, and human cancers. Herein we review the field and describe how pioneer factors may enable cellular reprogramming.
    Genes & development 11/2011; 25(21):2227-41. · 12.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Embryonic stem (ES) cells differentiating as aggregates self-organize dependent on Wnt signaling that is initially localized to discrete sites in the aggregate. As differentiation proceeds, Wnt signaling expands to most of the aggregates, thus resulting in widespread differentiation of mesendodermal progenitors. This process resembles primitive streak formation, but the lack of organized positional information makes the differentiating aggregates develop in a disorganized fashion. Here, we report that exogenous, cellular signaling sources can control the site where differentiation initiates in ES cell aggregates. Fibroblasts engineered to express cadherins are assembled with ES cells to form composite aggregates where the fibroblasts are positioned as a discrete pole. When engineered to express secreted Wnt agonists or antagonists, this pole functions to localize signaling in a way that polarizes the differentiating aggregates. The use of cell adhesion molecules to control morphology of developing stem cell aggregates should be widely applicable in tissue engineering.
    Stem cells and development 09/2011; 21(4):647-53. · 4.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding how silent genes can be competent for activation provides insight into development as well as cellular reprogramming and pathogenesis. We performed genomic location analysis of the pioneer transcription factor FoxA in the adult mouse liver and found that about one-third of the FoxA bound sites are near silent genes, including genes without detectable RNA polymerase II. Virtually all of the FoxA-bound silent sites are within conserved sequences, suggesting possible function. Such sites are enriched in motifs for transcriptional repressors, including for Rfx1 and type II nuclear hormone receptors. We found one such target site at a cryptic "shadow" enhancer 7 kilobases (kb) downstream of the Cdx2 gene, where Rfx1 restricts transcriptional activation by FoxA. The Cdx2 shadow enhancer exhibits a subset of regulatory properties of the upstream Cdx2 promoter region. While Cdx2 is ectopically induced in the early metaplastic condition of Barrett's esophagus, its expression is not necessarily present in progressive Barrett's with dysplasia or adenocarcinoma. By contrast, we find that Rfx1 expression in the esophageal epithelium becomes gradually extinguished during progression to cancer, i.e, expression of Rfx1 decreased markedly in dysplasia and adenocarcinoma. We propose that this decreased expression of Rfx1 could be an indicator of progression from Barrett's esophagus to adenocarcinoma and that similar analyses of other transcription factors bound to silent genes can reveal unanticipated regulatory insights into oncogenic progression and cellular reprogramming.
    PLoS Genetics 09/2011; 7(9):e1002277. · 8.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Transcriptionally silent genes can be marked by histone modifications and regulatory proteins that indicate the genes' potential to be activated. Such marks have been identified in pluripotent cells, but it is unknown how such marks occur in descendant, multipotent embryonic cells that have restricted cell fate choices. We isolated mouse embryonic endoderm cells and assessed histone modifications at regulatory elements of silent genes that are activated upon liver or pancreas fate choices. We found that the liver and pancreas elements have distinct chromatin patterns. Furthermore, the histone acetyltransferase P300, recruited via bone morphogenetic protein signaling, and the histone methyltransferase Ezh2 have modulatory roles in the fate choice. These studies reveal a functional "prepattern" of chromatin states within multipotent progenitors and potential targets to modulate cell fate induction.
    Science 05/2011; 332(6032):963-6. · 31.20 Impact Factor
  • Wendy A Bickmore, Kenneth S Zaret
    Current opinion in genetics & development 10/2010; 20(5):467-9. · 8.99 Impact Factor
  • Kenneth S Zaret, Morris F White
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    ABSTRACT: Most insulin-secreting pancreatic beta-cells are irreplaceably lost in type 1 diabetes. In a mouse model, pancreatic alpha-cells seem to sacrifice their identity to replenish the low stock of beta-cells. Two experts discuss what this means for understanding the basic cell biology involved and its relevance to treating diabetes.
    Nature 04/2010; 464(7292):1132-3. · 38.60 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

9k Citations
1,101.62 Total Impact Points


  • 2012–2014
    • University of Pennsylvania
      • • Institute for Regenerative Medicine - IRM
      • • Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2010–2014
    • Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
      • Department of Cell and Development Biology
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
    • Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
      Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • 2000–2009
    • Fox Chase Cancer Center
      • Institute for Cancer Research
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2008
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      • Molecular Biology Institute
      Los Angeles, California, United States
  • 2007
    • Medical College of Wisconsin
      • Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy
      Milwaukee, WI, United States
  • 2004–2006
    • Catholic University of Louvain
      Walloon Region, Belgium
  • 1988–2001
    • Brown University
      • Chemical Biology
      Providence, RI, United States
  • 1994
    • Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 1991
    • University of Rochester
      • School of Medicine and Dentistry
      Rochester, NY, United States