Recent evidence suggests that ovarian high-grade serous carcinoma (HGSC) originates from the epithelium of the fallopian tube. However, most mouse models are based on the previous prevailing view that ovarian cancer develops from the transformation of the ovarian surface epithelium. Here, we report the extensive histological and molecular characterization of the mogp-TAg transgenic mouse, which expresses the SV40 large T-antigen (TAg) under the control of the mouse müllerian-specific Ovgp-1 promoter. Histological analysis of the fallopian tubes of mogp-TAg mice identified a variety of neoplastic lesions analogous to those described as precursors to ovarian HGSC. We identified areas of normal-appearing p53-positive epithelium that are similar to 'p53 signatures' in the human fallopian tube. More advanced proliferative lesions with nuclear atypia and epithelial stratification were also identified that were morphologically and immunohistochemically reminiscent of human serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma (STIC), a potential precursor of ovarian HGSC. Beside these non-invasive precursor lesions, we also identified invasive adenocarcinoma in the ovaries of 56% of the mice. Microarray analysis revealed several genes differentially expressed between the fallopian tube of mogp-TAg and wild-type (WT) C57BL/6. One of these genes, Top2a, which encodes topoisomerase II?, was shown by immunohistochemistry to be concurrently expressed with elevated p53 and was specifically elevated in mouse STICs but not in the surrounding tissues. TOP2A protein was also found elevated in human STICs, low-grade and high-grade serous carcinoma. The mouse model reported here displays a progression from normal tubal epithelium to invasive HGSC in the ovary, and therefore closely simulates the current emerging model of human ovarian HGSC pathogenesis. This mouse therefore has the potential to be a very useful new model for elucidating the mechanisms of serous ovarian tumourigenesis, as well as for developing novel approaches for the prevention, diagnosis and therapy of this disease.
The ability of small molecules to maintain self-renewal and to inhibit differentiation of pluripotent stem cells has been well-demonstrated. Two widely used molecules are PD 98059 (PD), an inhibitor of extracellular-signal-regulated kinase 1 (ERK), and SC1 (Pluripotin), which inhibits the RasGAP and ERK pathways. However, no studies have been conducted to compare their effects on the pluripotency and derivation of embryonic stem (ES) cells from inbred mice C57BL/6, an important mouse strain frequently used to model behavior, cognitive functions, immune system, and metabolic disorders in humans and also the first mouse strain chosen to be sequenced for its entire genome. We found significantly increased derivation efficiency of ES cells from in vivo fertilized embryos (fES) of C57BL/6 with the use of PD (71.4% over the control of 35.3%). Because fES and ES from cloned embryos (ntES) are not distinguishable in transcription or translation profiles, we used ntES cells to compare the effect of small molecules on their in vitro characteristics, in vitro differentiation ability, and the ability to generate full-term ntES-4N pups by tetraploid complementation. NtES cells exhibited typical ES characteristics and up-regulated Sox2 expression in media with either small-molecule. Higher rates of full term ntES-4N pup were generated by the supplementation of PD or SC1. We obtained the highest efficiency of ntES-4N pup generation ever reported from this strain by supplementing ES medium with SC1. Lastly, we compared the pluripotency of fES, ntES and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells of C57BL/6 background using the tetraploid complementation assay. A significant increase in implantation sites and the number of full-term pups were obtained when fES, ntES, and iPS cells were cultured with SC1 compared to the control ES medium. In conclusion, supplementing ES cell culture medium with PD and SC1 increases the derivation efficiency and pluripotency, respectively, of stem cells derived from the refractory inbred C57BL/6 strain.
Calpains are Ca(2+)-dependent modulator Cys proteases that have a variety of functions in almost all eukaryotes. There are more than 10 well-conserved mammalian calpains, among which eutherian calpain-6 (CAPN6) is unique in that it has amino acid substitutions at the active-site Cys residue (to Lys in humans), strongly suggesting a loss of proteolytic activity. CAPN6 is expressed predominantly in embryonic muscles, placenta, and several cultured cell lines. We previously reported that CAPN6 is involved in regulating microtubule dynamics and actin reorganization in cultured cells. The physiological functions of CAPN6, however, are still unclear. Here, to elucidate CAPN6s in vivo roles, we generated Capn6-deficient mice, in which a lacZ expression cassette was integrated into the Capn6 gene. These Capn6-deficient mouse embryos expressed lacZ predominantly in skeletal muscles, as well as in cartilage and the heart. Histological and biochemical analyses showed that the CAPN6 deficiency promoted the development of embryonic skeletal muscle. In primary cultured skeletal muscle cells that were induced to differentiate into myotubes, Capn6 expression was detected in skeletal myocytes, and Capn6-deficient cultures showed increased differentiation. Furthermore, we found that CAPN6 was expressed in the regenerating skeletal muscles of adult mice after cardiotoxin-induced degeneration. In this experimental system, Capn6-deficient mice exhibited more advanced skeletal-muscle regeneration than heterozygotes or wild-type mice at the same time point. These results collectively showed that a loss of CAPN6 promotes skeletal muscle differentiation during both development and regeneration, suggesting a novel physiological function of CAPN6 as a suppressor of skeletal muscle differentiation.
The developmental potency of mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells, which is the ability to contribute to a whole embryo, is known to deteriorate during long-term cell culture. Previously, we have shown that ES cells oscillate between Zscan4(-) and Zscan4(+) states, and the transient activation of Zscan4 is required for the maintenance of telomeres and genome stability of ES cells. Here we show that increasing the frequency of Zscan4 activation in mouse ES cells restores and maintains their developmental potency in long-term cell culture. Injection of a single ES cell with such increased potency into a tetraploid blastocyst gives rise to an entire embryo with a higher success rate. These results not only provide a means to rejuvenate ES cells by manipulating Zscan4 expression, but also indicate the active roles of Zscan4 in the long-term maintenance of ES cell potency.
During female reproductive life, ovarian follicle reserve is reduced by maturation and atresia until menopause ensues. Foxo3 is required to maintain the ovarian reserve in mice. Here we show that overexpression of constitutively active FOXO3 can increase ovarian reproductive capacity in mice. We find increased follicle numbers and decreased gonadotropin levels in aging FOXO3-transgenic mice compared with wild-type littermates, suggesting maintenance of a greater ovarian reserve. Based on cumulative progeny in aging animals, we find 31-49% increased fertility in transgenic females. The gene expression profile of Foxo3-/- knockout ovaries appears older than that of wild-type littermates, and the transgene induces a younger-looking profile, restoring much of the wild-type transcriptome. This is the first gain-of-function model of augmented reproductive reserve in mice, thus emphasizing the role of Foxo3 as a guardian of the ovarian follicle pool in mammals and a potential determinant of the onset of menopause.
Networks of transcription factors (TFs) are thought to determine and maintain the identity of cells. Here we systematically repressed each of 100 TFs with shRNA and carried out global gene expression profiling in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. Unexpectedly, only the repression of a handful of TFs significantly affected transcriptomes, which changed in two directions/trajectories: one trajectory by the repression of either Pou5f1 or Sox2; the other trajectory by the repression of either Esrrb, Sall4, Nanog, or Tcfap4. The data suggest that the trajectories of gene expression change are already preconfigured by the gene regulatory network and roughly correspond to extraembryonic and embryonic fates of cell differentiation, respectively. These data also indicate the robustness of the pluripotency gene network, as the transient repression of most TFs did not alter the transcriptomes.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) generated by forced expression of four transcription factors offer promises for regenerative and therapeutic uses in human diseases. However, it is necessary to overcome the risk of tumorigenicity caused by the use of potent oncogenes and the use of randomly integrating vectors before the iPSC technology can be applied to human medicine. Stem cells and cancer cells share many features in common, implying that there are similar underlying mechanisms in their development. Small molecules have been used to induce cell reprogramming for lineage trans-differentiation and for maintaining pluripotency of stem cells. In this study, we investigated the possibility of replacing all reprogramming viral factors with small molecules. To this end, we evaluated the effects of carcinogens at nongenotoxic levels on somatic cells. We identified 16 candidate chemicals through biology-oriented in silico high-throughput screening with commercially available inventories from Sigma-Aldrich for cancer research, and established a reprogramming protocol of 16-day treatment followed by 5 days of recovery. This protocol was applied to B6/129 mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) at passage 3. From recovery day 2, colonies appeared at an efficiency of 0.02%. These colonies were positive for both alkaline phosphatase and surface specific embryonic antigen-1 (SSEA-1) at a comparable level to those of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Global gene expression analysis with a 38K gene MEEBO microarray revealed that the colonies had 564 (1.5%) differentially expressed genes compared to MEFs at day 0 of treatment, and these genes were enriched in "neuromuscular differentiation." Moreover, 122 differentially expressed genes in the colonies were ESC-enriched, including downregulated somatic markers and upregulated stem cell markers. In conclusion, combined chemical treatment of MEFs herein might have caused these cells to transverse to an intermediate state within the mesodermal lineages.
In addition to determining static states of gene expression (high vs. low), it is important to characterize their dynamic status. For example, genes with H3K27me3 chromatin marks are not only suppressed but also poised for activation. However, the responsiveness of genes to perturbations has never been studied systematically. To distinguish gene responses to specific factors from responsiveness in general, it is necessary to analyze gene expression profiles of cells responding to a large variety of disturbances, and such databases did not exist before.
Deriving histocompatible embryonic stem (ES) cells by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and parthenogenetic activation (PA) requires fresh oocytes, which prevents their applications in humans. Here, we evaluated the efficiency of deriving ES cells from mature metaphase II (MII) and immature metaphase I (MI) vitrified oocytes, by PA or SCNT, in a mouse model. We successfully generated ES cell lines from PA (MII and MI) and SCNT (MII and MI) blastocysts. These cell lines expressed genes and antigens characteristic of pluripotent ES cells and produced full-term pups upon tetraploid embryo complementation. This study established an animal model for efficient generation of patient-specific ES cell lines using cryopreserved oocytes. This is a major step forward in the application of therapeutic cloning and parthenogenetic technology in human regenerative medicine and will serve as an important alternative to the iPS cell technology in countries/regions where these technologies are permitted.
Sirtuins are a phylogenetically conserved NAD+-dependent protein deacetylase/ADP-ribosyltransferase family implicated in diverse biological processes. Several family members localize to mitochondria, the function of which is thought to determine the developmental potential of preimplantation embryos. We have therefore characterized the role of sirtuins in mouse preimplantation development under in vitro culture conditions. All sirtuin members were expressed in eggs, and their expression gradually decreased until the blastocyst stage. Treatment with sirtuin inhibitors resulted in increased intracellular ROS levels and decreased blastocyst formation. These effects were recapitulated by siRNA-induced knockdown of Sirt3, which is involved in mitochondrial energy metabolism, and in Sirt3-/- embryos. The antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine and low-oxygen conditions rescued these adverse effects. When Sirt3-knockdown embryos were transferred to pseudopregnant mice after long-term culture, implantation and fetal growth rates were decreased, indicating that Sirt3-knockdown embryos were sensitive to in vitro conditions and that the effect was long lasting. Further experiments revealed that maternally derived Sirt3 was critical. Sirt3 inactivation increased mitochondrial ROS production, leading to p53 upregulation and changes in downstream gene expression. The inactivation of p53 improved the developmental outcome of Sirt3-knockdown embryos, indicating that the ROS-p53 pathway was responsible for the developmental defects. These results indicate that Sirt3 plays a protective role in preimplantation embryos against stress conditions during in vitro fertilization and culture.
Tetraploid (4N) complementation assay is regard as the most stringent characterization test for the pluripotency of embryonic stem (ES) cells. The technology can generate mice fully derived from the injected ES cell (ES-4N) with 4N placentas. However, it remains a very inefficient procedure owing to a lack of information on the optimal conditions for ES incorporation into the 4N embryos. In the present study, we injected ES cells from embryos of natural fertilization (fES) and somatic cell nuclear transfer (ntES) into 4N embryos at various stages of development to determine the optimal stage of ES cells integration by comparing the efficiency of full-term ES-4N mouse generation. Our results demonstrate that fES/ntES cells can be incorporated into 4N embryos at 2-cell, 4-cell and blastocyst stages and full-term mice can be generated. Interestingly, ntES cells injected into the 4-cell group resulted in the lowest efficiency (5.6%) compared to the 2-cell (13.8%, P > 0.05) and blastocyst (16.7%, P < 0.05) stages. Because 4N embryos start to form compacted morulae at the 4-cell stage, we investigated whether the lower efficiency at this stage was due to early compaction by injecting ntES cells into artificially de-compacted embryos treated with calcium free medium. Although the treatment changed the embryonic morphology, it did not increase the efficiency of ES-4N mice generation. Immunochemistry of the cytoskeleton displayed microtubule and microfilament polarization at the late 4-cell stage in 4N embryos, which suggests that de-compaction treatment cannot reverse the polarization process. Taken together, we show here that a wide developmental range of 4N embryos can be used for 4N complementation and embryo polarization and compaction may restrict incorporation of ES cells into 4N embryos.
Mammalian parthenogenetic embryos are not viable and die because of defects in placental development and genomic imprinting. Parthenogenetic ESCs (pESCs) derived from parthenogenetic embryos might advance regenerative medicine by avoiding immuno-rejection. However, previous reports suggest that pESCs may fail to differentiate and contribute to some organs in chimeras, including muscle and pancreas, and it remains unclear whether pESCs themselves can form all tissue types in the body. We found that derivation of pESCs is more efficient than of ESCs derived from fertilized embryos, in association with reduced mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling in parthenogenetic embryos and their inner cell mass outgrowth. Furthermore, in vitro culture modifies the expression of imprinted genes in pESCs, and these cells, being functionally indistinguishable from fertilized embryo-derived ESCs, can contribute to all organs in chimeras. Even more surprisingly, our study shows that live parthenote pups were produced from pESCs through tetraploid embryo complementation, which contributes to placenta development. This is the first demonstration that pESCs are capable of full-term development and can differentiate into all cell types and functional organs in the body.
The transcription factor Pitx3 is expressed exclusively by mesodiencephalic dopaminergic neurons; however, ablation of Pitx3 results in selective degeneration of primarily dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta, the neuronal population that is most vulnerable in Parkinsons disease. Although the exact molecular mechanisms of the action of Pitx3 are unclear, roles in both terminal maturation and/or survival of substantia nigra dopaminergic neurons have been suggested. To investigate the connection between Pitx3 and selective neurodegeneration, we generated embryonic stem cells from a Pitx3-deficient mouse (aphakia) for in-vitro differentiation to dopaminergic neurons. This loss of functionin-vitro system allowed us to examine characteristic features in dopaminergic neuron development and to assess the role that Pitx3 plays in the differentiation/maturation process. We found that aphakia embryonic stem cells generated 50% fewer tyrosine hydroxylase-positive/microtubule-associated protein (Map)2-positive mature neurons compared with control cultures. The expression of dopamine transport regulators and vesicle release proteins was reduced and dopamine release was unregulated in the Pitx3-deficient tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons generated. Treatment of aphakia embryonic stem cell cultures with retinoic acid resulted in a significant increase in mesodiencephalic tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons, providing further support for the role of Pitx3 in dopaminergic neuron specification through the retinoic acid pathway. Our study, using Pitx3-deficient embryonic stem cells in an in-vitro differentiation culture system, allowed us to assess the role of Pitx3 in the specification and final maturation of dopaminergic neurons.
Although the first mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell lines were derived 2 decades ago, and standard protocols for ES cell derivation are widely used today, the technical difficulty of these protocols still pose a challenge for many investigators attempting to produce large numbers of ES cell lines, and are limited to only a few mouse strains. Recently, glucose concentration was shown to have a significant effect on the efficiency of ES cell derivation, but the mechanism(s) mediating this effect are still the subject of debate. In this report, we investigated the effect of glucose concentration on ES cell derivation efficiency from blastocysts in the context of a new medium, Minimum Essential Medium alpha (MEMalpha). Furthermore, we propose novel methods to improve mouse ES cell derivation efficiency using in vitro epigenetic modifications during early passages, combined with detection of Oct4-expressing cells. Based on the results reported here, modified MEMalpha containing high glucose improves the efficiency of ES cell derivation remarkably, compared with Knockout Dulbeccos-Modified Eagle Media (KDMEM). Epigenetic modifications are able to improve the efficiency even further.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer enables the generation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) that genetically match the donor and can be used to treat disease through cell replacement therapies or to recapitulate patient-specific disease via in vitro differentiation. We performed a "proof-of-principle" study using tail tip fibroblasts from a mouse model of Parkinsons disease (Aphakia) as the donor cell nuclei for nuclear transfer and derived "customized" ESCs for in vitro analysis. Aphakia mice contain deletions in the pitx3 gene and show selective loss of dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra, specifically the neuron population susceptible to degeneration in Parkinsons disease. Using electrofusion nuclear transfer, we produced cloned Aphakia oocytes at rates similar to those for control, cloned oocytes. Aphakia ESCs were isolated and live mice were generated using tetraploid embryo complementation. In vitro differentiation of Aphakia ESCs to dopaminergic neurons revealed significantly fewer TH+ neurons that expressed MAP2, DAT, synaptophysin, VMAT2, and AHD2 compared to control nuclear transfer ESC cultures, supporting a role for Pitx3 in mesodiencephalic dopamine neuron maturation. Taken together, our studies define a customized in vitro ESC culture system used to analyze gene-specific contribution to dopamine neuron generation, maturation, and susceptibility to degeneration.
Somatic cells can be reprogrammed to a totipotent state through nuclear transfer or cloning, because it has been demonstrated that the oocyte has the ability to reprogramme an adult nucleus into an embryonic state that can initiate the development of a new organism. Therapeutic cloning, whereby nuclear transfer is used to derive patient-specific embryonic stem cells, embraces an entire new opportunity for regenerative medicine. However, a key obstacle for human therapeutic cloning is that the source of fresh human oocytes is extremely limited. In the present review, we propose prospective sources of human oocytes by using oocyte cryopreservation, such as an oocyte bank and immature oocytes. We also address some potential issues associated with nuclear transfer when using cryopreserved oocytes. In the future, if the efficacy and efficiency of cryopreserved oocytes are comparable to those of fresh oocytes in human therapeutic cloning, the use of cryopreserved oocytes would be invaluable and generate a great impact to regenerative medicine.
Although leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) maintains the ground state pluripotency of mouse embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) by activating the Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Jak/Stat3) pathway, the mechanism remained unclear. Stat3 has only been shown to promote complete reprogramming of epiblast and neural stem cells and partially reprogrammed cells (pre-iPSCs). We investigated if and how Jak/Stat3 activation promotes reprogramming of terminally differentiated mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). We demonstrated that activated Stat3 not only promotes but also is essential for the pluripotency establishment of MEFs during reprogramming. We further demonstrated that during this process, inhibiting Jak/Stat3 activity blocks demethylation of Oct4 and Nanog regulatory elements in induced cells, which are marked by suppressed endogenous pluripotent gene expression. These are correlated with the significant upregulation of DNA methyltransferase (Dnmt) 1 and histone deacetylases (HDACs) expression as well as the increased expression of lysine-specific histone demethylase 2 and methyl CpG binding protein 2. Inhibiting Jak/Stat3 also blocks the expression of Dnmt3L, which is correlated with the failure of retroviral transgene silencing. Furthermore, Dnmt or HDAC inhibitor but not overexpression of Nanog significantly rescues the reprogramming arrested by Jak/Stat3 inhibition or LIF deprivation. Finally, we demonstrated that LIF/Stat3 signal also represents the prerequisite for complete reprogramming of pre-iPSCs. We conclude that Jak/Stat3 activity plays a fundamental role to promote pluripotency establishment at the epigenetic level, by facilitating DNA demethylation/de novo methylation, and open-chromatin formation during late-stage reprogramming.
The generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) by the forced expression of defined transcription factors in somatic cells holds great promise for the future of regenerative medicine. However, the initial reprogramming mechanism is still poorly understood. Here we show that Zscan4, expressed transiently in2-cell embryos and embryonic stem cells (ESCs), efficiently produces iPSCs from mouse embryo fibroblasts when coexpressed with Klf4, Oct4, and Sox2. Interestingly, the forced expression of Zscan4 is required onlyfor the first few days of iPSC formation. Microarray analysis revealed transient and early induction of preimplantation-specific genes in a Zscan4-dependent manner. Our work indicates that Zscan4 is a previously unidentified potent natural factor that facilitates the reprogramming process and reactivates early embryonic genes.
The efficiency of embryonic stem (ES) cell derivation relies on an optimized culture medium and techniques for treating preimplantation stage embryos. Recently, ES cell derivation from the preblastocyst developmental stage was reported by removing the zona pellucida from embryos of the most efficient strain for ES cell derivation (129Sv) during early preimplantation. Here, we showed that ES cells can be efficiently derived and maintained in a modified medium (MEM?), from preblastocysts of a low-efficiency mouse strain (a hybrid consisting of 50% B6, 25% CBA, and 25% DBA). Preblastocyst-derived ES cell lines were normal in terms of pluripotency-related protein expression, and chromosome number. Also, preblastocyst-derived ES cell lines from various culture conditions showed pluripotency in vivo through teratoma analysis. Interestingly, ES cell lines produced from preblastocysts and blastocysts, regardless of the derivation culture conditions, are nearly indistinguishable by their global gene expression profiles.
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