Polycomb group (PcG) proteins play important roles in repressing lineage-specific genes and maintaining the undifferentiated state of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs). However, how PcG proteins are recruited to their target genes is largely unknown. Here, we show that the H3K36-specific histone demethylase Kdm2b is highly expressed in mESCs and regulated by the pluripotent factors Oct4 and Sox2 directly. Depletion of Kdm2b in mESCs causes de-repression of lineage-specific genes and induces early differentiation. The function of Kdm2b depends on its CxxC-ZF domain, which mediates its genome-wide binding to CpG islands (CGIs). Kdm2b interacts with the core components of polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1) and recruits the complex to the CGIs of early lineage-specific genes. Thus, our study not only reveals an Oct4-Sox2-Kdm2b-PRC1-CGI regulatory axis and its function in maintaining the undifferentiated state of mESCs, but also demonstrates a critical function of Kdm2b in recruiting PRC1 to the CGIs of lineage-specific genes to repress their expression.
Chromosomal translocations of the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene are a common cause of acute leukemias. The oncogenic function of MLL fusion proteins is, in part, mediated through aberrant activation of Hoxa genes and Meis1, among others. Here we demonstrate using a tamoxifen-inducible Cre-mediated loss of function mouse model that DOT1L, an H3K79 methyltransferase, is required for both initiation and maintenance of MLL-AF9-induced leukemogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Through gene expression and chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis we demonstrate that mistargeting of DOT1L, subsequent H3K79 methylation, and up-regulation of Hoxa and Meis1 genes underlie the molecular mechanism of how DOT1L contributes to MLL-AF9-mediated leukemogenesis. Our study not only provides the first in vivo evidence for the function of DOT1L in leukemia, but also reveals the molecular mechanism for DOT1L in MLL-AF9 mediated leukemia. Thus, DOT1L may serve as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of leukemia caused by MLL translocations.
Recent studies have demonstrated that embryonic stem cell-like induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells can be generated by enforced expression of defined transcription factors. The fact that cell fate change is accompanied by changes in epigenetic modifications prompted us to investigate whether chemicals known to modulate epigenetic regulators are capable of enhancing the efficiency of iPS cell generation. Here, we report that butyrate, a natural small fatty acid and histone deacetylase inhibitor, significantly increases the efficiency of mouse iPS cell generation using the transcription factors Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc. We show that butyrate not only changes the reprogramming dynamics, but also increases the ratio of iPS cell colonies to total colonies by reducing the frequency of partially reprogrammed cells and transformed cells. Detailed analysis reveals that the effect of butyrate on reprogramming appears to be mediated by c-Myc and occurs during an early stage of reprogramming. Genome-wide gene expression analysis reveals up-regulation of ES cell-enriched genes when mouse embryonic fibroblasts are treated with butyrate during reprogramming. Thus, our study identifies butyrate as a chemical factor capable of promoting iPS cell generation.
DNA methylation is one of the best-characterized epigenetic modifications. Although the enzymes that catalyse DNA methylation have been characterized, enzymes responsible for demethylation have been elusive. A recent study indicates that the human TET1 protein could catalyse the conversion of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) of DNA to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), raising the possibility that DNA demethylation may be a Tet1-mediated process. Here we extend this study by demonstrating that all three mouse Tet proteins (Tet1, Tet2 and Tet3) can also catalyse a similar reaction. Tet1 has an important role in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell maintenance through maintaining the expression of Nanog in ES cells. Downregulation of Nanog via Tet1 knockdown correlates with methylation of the Nanog promoter, supporting a role for Tet1 in regulating DNA methylation status. Furthermore, knockdown of Tet1 in pre-implantation embryos results in a bias towards trophectoderm differentiation. Thus, our studies not only uncover the enzymatic activity of the Tet proteins, but also demonstrate a role for Tet1 in ES cell maintenance and inner cell mass cell specification.
Haploinsufficiency for the HMG-box transcription factor SOX2 results in abnormalities of the human ventral forebrain and its derivative structures. These defects include anophthalmia (absence of eye), microphthalmia (small eye) and hypothalamic hamartoma (HH), an overgrowth of the ventral hypothalamus. To determine how Sox2 deficiency affects the morphogenesis of the ventral diencephalon and eye, we generated a Sox2 allelic series (Sox2(IR), Sox2(LP), and Sox2(EGFP)), allowing for the generation of mice that express germline hypomorphic levels (<40%) of SOX2 protein and that faithfully recapitulate SOX2 haploinsufficient human phenotypes. We find that Sox2 hypomorphism significantly disrupts the development of the posterior hypothalamus, resulting in an ectopic protuberance of the prechordal floor, an upregulation of Shh signaling, and abnormal hypothalamic patterning. In the anterior diencephalon, both the optic stalks and optic cups (OC) of Sox2 hypomorphic (Sox2(HYP)) embryos are malformed. Furthermore, Sox2(HYP) eyes exhibit a loss of neural potential and coloboma, a common phenotype in SOX2 haploinsufficient humans that has not been described in a mouse model of SOX2 deficiency. These results establish for the first time that germline Sox2 hypomorphism disrupts the morphogenesis and patterning of the hypothalamus, optic stalk, and the early OC, establishing a model of the development of the abnormalities that are observed in SOX2 haploinsufficient humans.
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