In JoVE (1)

Other Publications (23)

Articles by Danwei Huangfu in JoVE

Other articles by Danwei Huangfu on PubMed

Mouse Dispatched Homolog1 is Required for Long-range, but Not Juxtacrine, Hh Signaling

Current Biology : CB. Sep, 2002  |  Pubmed ID: 12372258

Precise patterning of cell types along the dorsal-ventral axis of the spinal cord is essential to establish functional neural circuits. In order to prove the feasibility of studying a single biological process through random mutagenesis in the mouse, we have identified recessive ENU-induced mutations in six genes that prevent normal specification of ventral cell types in the spinal cord. We positionally cloned the genes responsible for two of the mutant phenotypes, smoothened and dispatched, which are homologs of Drosophila Hh pathway components. The Dispatched homolog1 (Disp1) mutation causes lethality at midgestation and prevents specification of ventral cell types in the neural tube, a phenotype identical to the Smoothened (Smo) null phenotype. As in Drosophila, mouse Disp1 is required to move Shh away from the site of synthesis. Despite the existence of a second mouse disp homolog, Disp1 is essential for long-range signaling by both Shh and Ihh ligands. Our data indicate that Shh signaling is required within the notochord to maintain Shh expression and to prevent notochord degeneration. Disp1, unlike Smo, is not required for this juxtacrine signaling by Shh.

Hedgehog Signalling in the Mouse Requires Intraflagellar Transport Proteins

Nature. Nov, 2003  |  Pubmed ID: 14603322

Intraflagellar transport (IFT) proteins were first identified as essential factors for the growth and maintenance of flagella in the single-celled alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. In a screen for embryonic patterning mutations induced by ethylnitrosourea, here we identify two mouse mutants, wimple (wim) and flexo (fxo), that lack ventral neural cell types and show other phenotypes characteristic of defects in Sonic hedgehog signalling. Both mutations disrupt IFT proteins: the wim mutation is an allele of the previously uncharacterized mouse homologue of IFT172; and fxo is a new hypomorphic allele of polaris, the mouse homologue of IFT88. Genetic analysis shows that Wim, Polaris and the IFT motor protein Kif3a are required for Hedgehog signalling at a step downstream of Patched1 (the Hedgehog receptor) and upstream of direct targets of Hedgehog signalling. Our data show that IFT machinery has an essential and vertebrate-specific role in Hedgehog signal transduction.

Analysis of Mouse Embryonic Patterning and Morphogenesis by Forward Genetics

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Apr, 2005  |  Pubmed ID: 15755804

Many aspects of the genetic control of mammalian embryogenesis cannot be extrapolated from other animals. Taking a forward genetic approach, we have induced recessive mutations by treatment of mice with ethylnitrosourea and have identified 43 mutations that affect early morphogenesis and patterning, including 38 genes that have not been studied previously. The molecular lesions responsible for 14 mutations were identified, including mutations in nine genes that had not been characterized previously. Some mutations affect vertebrate-specific components of conserved signaling pathways; for example, at least five mutations affect previously uncharacterized regulators of the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) pathway. Approximately half of all of the mutations affect the initial establishment of the body plan, and several of these produce phenotypes that have not been described previously. A large fraction of the genes identified affect cell migration, cellular organization, and cell structure. The findings indicate that phenotype-based genetic screens provide a direct and unbiased method to identify essential regulators of mammalian development.

Cilia and Hedgehog Responsiveness in the Mouse

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Aug, 2005  |  Pubmed ID: 16061793

The intraflagellar transport (IFT) proteins Ift172/Wimple and Polaris/Ift88 and the anterograde IFT motor kinesin-II are required for the production and maintenance of cilia. These proteins are also required for the activation of targets of the mouse Hedgehog (Hh) pathway by Gli transcription factors. The phenotypes of the IFT mutants, however, are not identical to mutants that lack Smoothened (Smo), an essential activator of the Hh pathway. We show here that mouse embryos that lack both Ift172 and Smo are identical to Ift172 single mutants, which indicates that Ift172 acts downstream of Smo. Ift172 mutants have a weaker neural patterning phenotype than Smo mutants, because Ift172, but not Smo, is required for proteolytic processing of Gli3 to its repressor form. Dnchc2 and Kif3a, essential subunits of the retrograde and anterograde IFT motors, are also required for both formation of Gli activator and proteolytic processing of Gli3. As a result, IFT mutants display a loss of Hh signaling phenotype in the neural tube, where Gli activators play the major role in pattern formation, and a gain of Hh signaling phenotype in the limb, where Gli3 repressor plays the major role. Because both anterograde and retrograde IFT are essential for positive and negative responses to Hh, and because cilia are present on Hh responsive cells, it is likely that cilia act as organelles that are required for all activity of the mouse Hh pathway.

Signaling from Smo to Ci/Gli: Conservation and Divergence of Hedgehog Pathways from Drosophila to Vertebrates

Development (Cambridge, England). Jan, 2006  |  Pubmed ID: 16339192

Although the framework of the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway is evolutionarily conserved, recent studies indicate that fundamental differences exist between Drosophila and vertebrates in the way signals are transduced from the membrane protein Smoothened (Smo) to the Ci/Gli transcription factors. For example, Smo structure and the roles of fused and Suppressor of fused have diverged. Recently, many vertebrate-specific components have been identified that act between Smo and Gli. These include intra-flagellar transport proteins, which link vertebrate Hh signaling to cilia. Because abnormal Hh signaling can cause birth defects and cancer, these vertebrate-specific components may have roles in human health.

All Beta Cells Contribute Equally to Islet Growth and Maintenance

PLoS Biology. Jul, 2007  |  Pubmed ID: 17535113

In healthy adult mice, the beta cell population is not maintained by stem cells but instead by the replication of differentiated beta cells. It is not known, however, whether all beta cells contribute equally to growth and maintenance, as it may be that some cells replicate while others do not. Understanding precisely which cells are responsible for beta cell replication will inform attempts to expand beta cells in vitro, a potential source for cell replacement therapy to treat diabetes. Two experiments were performed to address this issue. First, the level of fluorescence generated by a pulse of histone 2B-green fluorescent protein (H2BGFP) expression was followed over time to determine how this marker is diluted with cell division; a uniform loss of label across the entire beta cell population was observed. Second, clonal analysis of dividing beta cells was completed; all clones were of comparable size. These results support the conclusion that the beta cell pool is homogeneous with respect to replicative capacity and suggest that all beta cells are candidates for in vitro expansion. Given similar observations in the hepatocyte population, we speculate that for tissues lacking an adult stem cell, they are replenished equally by replication of all differentiated cells.

Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells by Defined Factors is Greatly Improved by Small-molecule Compounds

Nature Biotechnology. Jul, 2008  |  Pubmed ID: 18568017

Reprogramming of mouse and human somatic cells can be achieved by ectopic expression of transcription factors, but with low efficiencies. We report that DNA methyltransferase and histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors improve reprogramming efficiency. In particular, valproic acid (VPA), an HDAC inhibitor, improves reprogramming efficiency by more than 100-fold, using Oct4-GFP as a reporter. VPA also enables efficient induction of pluripotent stem cells without introduction of the oncogene c-Myc.

Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Primary Human Fibroblasts with Only Oct4 and Sox2

Nature Biotechnology. Nov, 2008  |  Pubmed ID: 18849973

Ectopic expression of defined sets of genetic factors can reprogram somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that closely resemble embryonic stem (ES) cells. The low efficiency with which iPS cells are derived hinders studies on the molecular mechanism of reprogramming, and integration of viral transgenes, in particular the oncogenes c-Myc and Klf4, may handicap this method for human therapeutic applications. Here we report that valproic acid (VPA), a histone deacetylase inhibitor, enables reprogramming of primary human fibroblasts with only two factors, Oct4 and Sox2, without the need for the oncogenes c-Myc or Klf4. The two factor-induced human iPS cells resemble human ES cells in pluripotency, global gene expression profiles and epigenetic states. These results support the possibility of reprogramming through purely chemical means, which would make therapeutic use of reprogrammed cells safer and more practical.

A Small-molecule Inhibitor of Tgf-Beta Signaling Replaces Sox2 in Reprogramming by Inducing Nanog

Cell Stem Cell. Nov, 2009  |  Pubmed ID: 19818703

The combined activity of three transcription factors can reprogram adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). However, the transgenic methods used for delivering reprogramming factors have raised concerns regarding the future utility of the resulting stem cells. These uncertainties could be overcome if each transgenic factor were replaced with a small molecule that either directly activated its expression from the somatic genome or in some way compensated for its activity. To this end, we have used high-content chemical screening to identify small molecules that can replace Sox2 in reprogramming. We show that one of these molecules functions in reprogramming by inhibiting Tgf-beta signaling in a stable and trapped intermediate cell type that forms during the process. We find that this inhibition promotes the completion of reprogramming through induction of the transcription factor Nanog.

Glucose and Aging Control the Quiescence Period That Follows Pancreatic Beta Cell Replication

Development (Cambridge, England). Oct, 2010  |  Pubmed ID: 20823063

Pancreatic beta cell proliferation has emerged as the principal mechanism for homeostatic maintenance of beta cell mass during adult life. This underscores the importance of understanding the mechanisms of beta cell replication and suggests novel approaches for regenerative therapy to treat diabetes. Here we use an in vivo pulse-chase labeling assay to investigate the replication dynamics of adult mouse beta cells. We find that replicated beta cells are able to re-enter the cell division cycle shortly after mitosis and regain their normal proliferative potential after a short quiescence period of several days. This quiescence period is lengthened with advanced age, but shortened during injury-driven beta cell regeneration and following treatment with a pharmacological activator of glucokinase, providing strong evidence that metabolic demand is a key determinant of cell cycle re-entry. Lastly, we show that cyclin D2, a crucial factor in beta cell replication, is downregulated during cell division, and is slowly upregulated post-mitosis by a glucose-sensitive mechanism. These results demonstrate that beta cells quickly regain their capacity to re-enter the cell cycle post-mitosis and implicate glucose control of cyclin D2 expression in the regulation of this process.

Human Pluripotent Stem Cells: an Emerging Model in Developmental Biology

Development (Cambridge, England). Feb, 2013  |  Pubmed ID: 23362344

Developmental biology has long benefited from studies of classic model organisms. Recently, human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), including human embryonic stem cells and human induced pluripotent stem cells, have emerged as a new model system that offers unique advantages for developmental studies. Here, we discuss how studies of hPSCs can complement classic approaches using model organisms, and how hPSCs can be used to recapitulate aspects of human embryonic development 'in a dish'. We also summarize some of the recently developed genetic tools that greatly facilitate the interrogation of gene function during hPSC differentiation. With the development of high-throughput screening technologies, hPSCs have the potential to revolutionize gene discovery in mammalian development.

Homologous Recombination DNA Repair Genes Play a Critical Role in Reprogramming to a Pluripotent State

Cell Reports. Mar, 2013  |  Pubmed ID: 23478019

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) hold great promise for personalized regenerative medicine. However, recent studies show that iPSC lines carry genetic abnormalities, suggesting that reprogramming may be mutagenic. Here, we show that the ectopic expression of reprogramming factors increases the level of phosphorylated histone H2AX, one of the earliest cellular responses to DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Additional mechanistic studies uncover a direct role of the homologous recombination (HR) pathway, a pathway essential for error-free repair of DNA DSBs, in reprogramming. This role is independent of the use of integrative or nonintegrative methods in introducing reprogramming factors, despite the latter being considered a safer approach that circumvents genetic modifications. Finally, deletion of the tumor suppressor p53 rescues the reprogramming phenotype in HR-deficient cells primarily through the restoration of reprogramming-dependent defects in cell proliferation and apoptosis. These mechanistic insights have important implications for the design of safer approaches to creating iPSCs.

An ICRISPR Platform for Rapid, Multiplexable, and Inducible Genome Editing in Human Pluripotent Stem Cells

Cell Stem Cell. Aug, 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 24931489

Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) offer a unique platform for elucidating the genes and molecular pathways that underlie complex traits and diseases. To realize this promise, methods for rapid and controllable genetic manipulations are urgently needed. By combining two newly developed gene-editing tools, the TALEN and CRISPR/Cas systems, we have developed a genome-engineering platform in hPSCs, which we named iCRISPR. iCRISPR enabled rapid and highly efficient generation of biallelic knockout hPSCs for loss-of-function studies, as well as homozygous knockin hPSCs with specific nucleotide alterations for precise modeling of disease conditions. We further demonstrate efficient one-step generation of double- and triple-gene knockout hPSC lines, as well as stage-specific inducible gene knockout during hPSC differentiation. Thus the iCRISPR platform is uniquely suited for dissection of complex genetic interactions and pleiotropic gene functions in human disease studies and has the potential to support high-throughput genetic analysis in hPSCs.

Stem Cell Epigenetics: Looking Forward

Cell Stem Cell. Jun, 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 25032261

The ICRISPR Platform for Rapid Genome Editing in Human Pluripotent Stem Cells

Methods in Enzymology. 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 25398343

Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) have the potential to generate all adult cell types, including rare or inaccessible human cell populations, thus providing a unique platform for disease studies. To realize this promise, it is essential to develop methods for efficient genetic manipulations in hPSCs. Established using TALEN (transcription activator-like effector nuclease) and CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)/Cas (CRISPR-associated) systems, the iCRISPR platform supports a variety of genome-engineering approaches with high efficiencies. Here, we first describe the establishment of the iCRISPR platform through TALEN-mediated targeting of inducible Cas9 expression cassettes into the AAVS1 locus. Next, we provide a series of technical procedures for using iCRISPR to achieve one-step knockout of one or multiple gene(s), "scarless" introduction of precise nucleotide alterations, as well as inducible knockout during hPSC differentiation. We present an optimized workflow, as well as guidelines for the selection of CRISPR targeting sequences and the design of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) homology-directed DNA repair templates for the introduction of specific nucleotide alterations. We have successfully used these protocols in four different hPSC lines, including human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Once the iCRISPR platform is established, clonal lines with desired genetic modifications can be established in as little as 1 month. The methods described here enable a wide range of genome-engineering applications in hPSCs, thus providing a valuable resource for the creation of diverse hPSC-based disease models with superior speed and ease.

Functional Analysis of a Chromosomal Deletion Associated with Myelodysplastic Syndromes Using Isogenic Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Nature Biotechnology. Jun, 2015  |  Pubmed ID: 25798938

Chromosomal deletions associated with human diseases, such as cancer, are common, but synteny issues complicate modeling of these deletions in mice. We use cellular reprogramming and genome engineering to functionally dissect the loss of chromosome 7q (del(7q)), a somatic cytogenetic abnormality present in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). We derive del(7q)- and isogenic karyotypically normal induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from hematopoietic cells of MDS patients and show that the del(7q) iPSCs recapitulate disease-associated phenotypes, including impaired hematopoietic differentiation. These disease phenotypes are rescued by spontaneous dosage correction and can be reproduced in karyotypically normal cells by engineering hemizygosity of defined chr7q segments in a 20-Mb region. We use a phenotype-rescue screen to identify candidate haploinsufficient genes that might mediate the del(7q)- hematopoietic defect. Our approach highlights the utility of human iPSCs both for functional mapping of disease-associated large-scale chromosomal deletions and for discovery of haploinsufficient genes.

A CRISPR/Cas-Mediated Selection-free Knockin Strategy in Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Stem Cell Reports. Jun, 2015  |  Pubmed ID: 26028531

The development of new gene-editing tools, in particular the CRISPR/Cas system, has greatly facilitated site-specific mutagenesis in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), including the introduction or correction of patient-specific mutations for disease modeling. However, integration of a reporter gene into an endogenous locus in hESCs still requires a lengthy and laborious two-step strategy that involves first drug selection to identify correctly targeted clones and then excision of the drug-resistance cassette. Through the use of iCRISPR, an efficient gene-editing platform we recently developed, this study demonstrates a knockin strategy without drug selection for both active and silent genes in hESCs. Lineage-specific hESC reporter lines are useful for real-time monitoring of cell-fate decisions and lineage tracing, as well as enrichment of specific cell populations during hESC differentiation. Thus, this selection-free knockin strategy is expected to greatly facilitate the use of hESCs for developmental studies, disease modeling, and cell-replacement therapy.

Mechanisms Underlying the Formation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Developmental Biology. Jan-Feb, 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 26383234

Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) offer unique opportunities for studying human biology, modeling diseases, and therapeutic applications. The simplest approach so far to generate human PSC lines is through reprogramming of somatic cells from an individual by defined factors, referred to simply as reprogramming. Reprogramming circumvents the ethical controversies associated with human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and nuclear transfer hESCs (nt-hESCs), and the resulting induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) retain the same basic genetic makeup as the somatic cell used for reprogramming. Since the first report of iPSCs by Takahashi and Yamanaka (Cell 2006, 126:663-676), the molecular mechanisms of reprogramming have been extensively investigated. A better mechanistic understanding of reprogramming is fundamental not only to iPSC biology and improving the quality of iPSCs for therapeutic use, but also to our understanding of the molecular basis of cell identity, pluripotency, and plasticity. Here, we summarize the genetic, epigenetic, and cellular events during reprogramming, and the roles of various factors identified thus far in the reprogramming process. WIREs Dev Biol 2016, 5:39-65. doi: 10.1002/wdev.206 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

Genome Editing of Lineage Determinants in Human Pluripotent Stem Cells Reveals Mechanisms of Pancreatic Development and Diabetes

Cell Stem Cell. Jun, 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 27133796

Directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into somatic counterparts is a valuable tool for studying disease. However, examination of developmental mechanisms in hPSCs remains challenging given complex multi-factorial actions at different stages. Here, we used TALEN and CRISPR/Cas-mediated gene editing and hPSC-directed differentiation for a systematic analysis of the roles of eight pancreatic transcription factors (PDX1, RFX6, PTF1A, GLIS3, MNX1, NGN3, HES1, and ARX). Our analysis not only verified conserved gene requirements between mice and humans but also revealed a number of previously unsuspected developmental mechanisms with implications for type 2 diabetes. These include a role of RFX6 in regulating the number of pancreatic progenitors, a haploinsufficient requirement for PDX1 in pancreatic β cell differentiation, and a potentially divergent role of NGN3 in humans and mice. Our findings support use of systematic genome editing in hPSCs as a strategy for understanding mechanisms underlying congenital disorders.

CRISPR/Cas9-Mediated Mutagenesis of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells in Defined Xeno-Free E8 Medium

Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.). 2017  |  Pubmed ID: 27709569

The recent advent of engineered nucleases including the CRISPR/Cas9 system has greatly facilitated genome manipulation in human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). In addition to facilitating hPSC-based disease studies, the application of genome engineering in hPSCs has also opened up new avenues for cell replacement therapy. To improve consistency and reproducibility of hPSC-based studies, and to meet the safety and regulatory requirements for clinical translation, it is necessary to use a defined, xeno-free cell culture system. This chapter describes protocols for CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in an inducible Cas9 hPSC-based system, using cells cultured in chemically defined, xeno-free E8 Medium on a recombinant human vitronectin substrate. We detail procedures for the design and transfection of CRISPR guide RNAs, colony selection, and the expansion and validation of clonal mutant lines, all within this fully defined culture condition. These methods may be applied to a wide range of genome-engineering applications in hPSCs, including those that utilize different types of site-specific nucleases such as zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) and TALENs, and form a closer step towards clinical utility of these cells.

CRISPR/Cas-Mediated Knockin in Human Pluripotent Stem Cells

Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.). 2017  |  Pubmed ID: 27807834

Fluorescent reporter and epitope-tagged human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) greatly facilitate studies on the pluripotency and differentiation characteristics of these cells. Unfortunately traditional procedures to generate such lines are hampered by a low targeting efficiency that necessitates a lengthy process of selection followed by the removal of the selection cassette. Here we describe a procedure to generate fluorescent reporter and epitope tagged hPSCs in an efficient one-step process using the CRISPR/Cas technology. Although the method described uses our recently developed iCRISPR platform, the protocols can be adapted for general use with CRISPR/Cas or other engineered nucleases. The transfection procedures described could also be used for additional applications, such as overexpression or lineage tracing studies.

The P53 Family Coordinates Wnt and Nodal Inputs in Mesendodermal Differentiation of Embryonic Stem Cells

Cell Stem Cell. Jan, 2017  |  Pubmed ID: 27889317

In this study, we outline a regulatory network that involves the p53 tumor suppressor family and the Wnt pathway acting together with the TGF-β pathway in mesendodermal differentiation of mouse and human embryonic stem cells. Knockout of all three members, p53, p63, and p73, shows that the p53 family is essential for mesendoderm specification during exit from pluripotency in embryos and in culture. Wnt3 and its receptor Fzd1 are direct p53 family target genes in this context, and induction of Wnt signaling by p53 is critical for activation of mesendodermal differentiation genes. Globally, Wnt3-activated Tcf3 and nodal-activated Smad2/3 transcription factors depend on each other for co-occupancy of target enhancers associated with key differentiation loci. Our results therefore highlight an unanticipated role for p53 family proteins in a regulatory network that integrates essential Wnt-Tcf and nodal-Smad inputs in a selective and interdependent way to drive mesendodermal differentiation of pluripotent cells.

Genome Editing in HPSCs Reveals GATA6 Haploinsufficiency and a Genetic Interaction with GATA4 in Human Pancreatic Development

Cell Stem Cell. Feb, 2017  |  Pubmed ID: 28196600

Human disease phenotypes associated with haploinsufficient gene requirements are often not recapitulated well in animal models. Here, we have investigated the association between human GATA6 haploinsufficiency and a wide range of clinical phenotypes that include neonatal and adult-onset diabetes using CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat)/Cas9-mediated genome editing coupled with human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) directed differentiation. We found that loss of one GATA6 allele specifically affects the differentiation of human pancreatic progenitors from the early PDX1+ stage to the more mature PDX1+NKX6.1+ stage, leading to impaired formation of glucose-responsive β-like cells. In addition to this GATA6 haploinsufficiency, we also identified dosage-sensitive requirements for GATA6 and GATA4 in the formation of both definitive endoderm and pancreatic progenitor cells. Our work expands the application of hPSCs from studying the impact of individual gene loci to investigation of multigenic human traits, and it establishes an approach for identifying genetic modifiers of human disease.

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