[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Based on knowledge of early embryo development, where anterior neural ectoderm (ANE) development is regulated by native inhibitors of bone morphogenic protein (BMP) and Nodal/Activin signaling, most published protocols of human embryonic stem cell differentiation to ANE have demonstrated a crucial role for Smad signaling in neural induction. The drawbacks of such protocols include the use of an embryoid body culture step and use of polypeptide secreted factors that are both expensive and, when considering clinical applications, have significant challenges in terms of good manufacturing practices compliancy. The use of small molecules to direct differentiation of pluripotent stem cells toward a specified lineage represents a powerful approach to generate specific cell types for further understanding of biological function, for understanding disease processes, for use in drug discovery, and finally for use in regenerative medicine. We therefore aimed to find controlled and reproducible animal-component-free differentiation conditions that would use only small molecules. Here, we demonstrate that pluripotent stem cells can be reproducibly and efficiently differentiated to PAX6(+) (a marker of neuroectoderm) and OCT4(-) (a marker of pluripotent stem cells) cells with the use of potent small inhibitors of the BMP and Activin/Nodal pathways, and in animal-component-free conditions, replacing the frequently used Noggin and SB431542. We also show by transcript analysis, both at the population level and for the first time at the single-cell level, that differentiated cells express genes characteristic for the development of ANE, in particular for the development of the future forebrain.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cellular immortalization provides a way for expansion and subsequent molecular characterization of rare cell types. Ideally, immortalization can be achieved by the reversible expression of immortalizing proteins. Here, we describe the use of conditional immortalization based on a modified tetracycline-regulated system for the expression of SV40 large T-antigen in embryonic stem (ES) cells and mice. The modified system relies on a codon improved reverse tetracycline transactivator (irtTA) fused to the ligand-binding domain (LBD) of the androgen receptor (irtTA-ABD) or of a mutated glucocorticoid receptor (irtTA-GBD*). Induction of T-antigen is conferred only after addition of two ligands, one to activate the LBD (mibolerone for irtTA-ABD or dexamethasone for irtTA-GBD*) and one to activate the tetracycline transactivator (doxycycline). In ES cells, changes in gene expression upon large T induction were limited and reversible upon deinduction. Similarly, expression of T-antigen was very tightly regulated in mice. We have isolated and expanded bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells that could be genetically manipulated and maintained their differentiation properties after several passages of expansion under conditions that induce the expression of large T-antigen.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Histone methylation is thought to be central to the epigenetic mechanisms that maintain and confine cellular identity in multi-cellular organisms. To examine epigenetic roles in cellular homeostasis, we conditionally mutated the histone 3 lysine 4 methyltransferase, Mll2, in embryonic stem (ES) cells, during development and in adult mice using tamoxifen-induced Cre recombination.
In ES cells, expression profiling unexpectedly revealed that only one gene, Magoh2, is dependent upon Mll2 and few other genes were affected. Loss of Mll2 caused loss of H3K4me3 at the Magoh2 promoter and concomitant gain of H3K27me3 and DNA methylation. Hence Mll2, which is orthologous to Drosophila Trithorax, is required to prevent Polycomb-Group repression of the Magoh2 promoter, and repression is further accompanied by DNA methylation. Early loss of Mll2 in utero recapitulated the embryonic lethality found in Mll2-/- embryos. However, loss of Mll2 after E11.5 produced mice without notable pathologies. Hence Mll2 is not required for late development, stem cells or homeostasis in somatic cell types. However it is required in the germ cell lineage. Spermatogenesis was lost upon removal of Mll2, although spermatogonia A persisted.
These data suggest a bimodal recruit and maintain model whereby Mll2 is required to establish certain epigenetic decisions during differentiation, which are then maintained by redundant mechanisms. We also suggest that these mechanisms relate to the epigenetic maintenance of CpG island promoters.
Full-text · Article · May 2009 · Epigenetics & Chromatin
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Embryonic stem (ES) cells have high self-renewal capacity and the potential to differentiate into a large variety of cell types. To investigate gene networks operating in pluripotent ES cells and their derivatives, the "Functional Genomics in Embryonic Stem Cells" consortium (FunGenES) has analyzed the transcriptome of mouse ES cells in eleven diverse settings representing sixty-seven experimental conditions. To better illustrate gene expression profiles in mouse ES cells, we have organized the results in an interactive database with a number of features and tools. Specifically, we have generated clusters of transcripts that behave the same way under the entire spectrum of the sixty-seven experimental conditions; we have assembled genes in groups according to their time of expression during successive days of ES cell differentiation; we have included expression profiles of specific gene classes such as transcription regulatory factors and Expressed Sequence Tags; transcripts have been arranged in "Expression Waves" and juxtaposed to genes with opposite or complementary expression patterns; we have designed search engines to display the expression profile of any transcript during ES cell differentiation; gene expression data have been organized in animated graphs of KEGG signaling and metabolic pathways; and finally, we have incorporated advanced functional annotations for individual genes or gene clusters of interest and links to microarray and genomic resources. The FunGenES database provides a comprehensive resource for studies into the biology of ES cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Epigenetic regulation by histone methyltransferases provides transcriptional memory and inheritable propagation of gene expression patterns. Potentially, the transition from a pluripotent state to lineage commitment also includes epigenetic instructions. The histone 3 lysine 4 methyltransferase Mll2/Wbp7 is essential for embryonic development. Here, we used embryonic stem (ES) cell lines deficient for Mll2 to examine its function more accurately. Mll2-/- ES cells are viable and retain pluripotency, but they display cell proliferation defects due to an enhanced rate of apoptosis. Apoptosis was not relieved by caspase inhibition and correlated with decreased Bcl2 expression. Concordantly, Mll2 binds to the Bcl2 gene and H3K4me(3) levels are reduced at the binding site when Mll2 is absent. In vitro differentiation showed delays along representative pathways for all three germ layers. Although ectodermal delays were severe and mesodermal delays persisted at about three days, endodermal differentiation seemed to recover and overshoot, concomitant with prolonged Oct4 gene expression. Hence, Mll2 is not required for ES cell self-renewal or the complex changes in gene expression involved in lineage commitment, but it contributes to the coordination and timing of early differentiation decisions.
Full-text · Article · Jul 2007 · Molecular Biology of the Cell
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Epigenesis is the process whereby the daughters of a dividing cell retain a chromatin state determined before cell division. The best-studied cases involve the inheritance of heterochromatic chromosomal domains, and little is known about specific gene regulation by epigenetic mechanisms. Recent evidence shows that epigenesis pivots on methylation of nucleosomes at histone 3 lysines 4, 9 or 27. Bioinformatics indicates that mammals have several enzymes for each of these methylations, including at least six histone 3 lysine 4 methyltransferases. To look for evidence of gene-specific epigenetic regulation in mammalian development, we examined one of these six, Mll2, using a multipurpose allele in the mouse to ascertain the loss-of-function phenotype. Loss of Mll2 slowed growth, increased apoptosis and retarded development, leading to embryonic failure before E11.5. Using chimera experiments, we demonstrated that Mll2 is cell-autonomously required. Evidence for gene-specific regulation was also observed. Although Mox1 and Hoxb1 expression patterns were correctly established, they were not maintained in the absence of Mll2, whereas Wnt1 and Otx2 were. The Mll2 loss-of-function phenotype is different from that of its sister gene Mll, and they regulate different Hox complex genes during ES cell differentiation. Therefore, these two closely related epigenetic factors play different roles in development and maintain distinct gene expression patterns. This suggests that other epigenetic factors also regulate particular patterns and that development entails networks of epigenetic specificities.