Higher-order chromatin structure is emerging as an important regulator of gene expression. Although dynamic chromatin structures have been identified in the genome, the full scope of chromatin dynamics during mammalian development and lineage specification remains to be determined. By mapping genome-wide chromatin interactions in human embryonic stem(ES) cells and four human ES-cell-derived lineages, we uncover extensive chromatin reorganization during lineage specification. We observe that although self-associating chromatin domains are stable during differentiation, chromatin interactions both within and between domains change in a striking manner, altering 36% of active and inactive chromosomal compartments throughout the genome. By integrating chromatin interaction maps with haplotype-resolved epigenome and transcriptome data sets, we find widespread allelic bias in gene expression correlated with allele-biased chromatin states of linked promoters and distal enhancers. Our results therefore provide a global view of chromatin dynamics and a resource for studying long-range control of gene expression in distinct human cell lineages.
Metabolites offer an important unexplored complementary approach to understanding the pluripotency of stem cells. Using MS-based metabolomics, we show that embryonic stem cells are characterized by abundant metabolites with highly unsaturated structures whose levels decrease upon differentiation. By monitoring the reduced and oxidized glutathione ratio as well as ascorbic acid levels, we demonstrate that the stem cell redox status is regulated during differentiation. On the basis of the oxidative biochemistry of the unsaturated metabolites, we experimentally manipulated specific pathways in embryonic stem cells while monitoring the effects on differentiation. Inhibition of the eicosanoid signaling pathway promoted pluripotency and maintained levels of unsaturated fatty acids. In contrast, downstream oxidized metabolites (for example, neuroprotectin D1) and substrates of pro-oxidative reactions (for example, acyl-carnitines), promoted neuronal and cardiac differentiation. We postulate that the highly unsaturated metabolome sustained by stem cells allows them to differentiate in response to in vivo oxidative processes such as inflammation.
Regulatory CD4+ T cells (Tr cells), the development of which is critically dependent on X-linked transcription factor Foxp3 (forkhead box P3), prevent self-destructive immune responses. Despite its important role, molecular and functional features conferred by Foxp3 to Tr precursor cells remain unknown. It has been suggested that Foxp3 expression is required for both survival of Tr precursors as well as their inability to produce interleukin (IL)-2 and independently proliferate after T-cell-receptor engagement, raising the possibility that such 'anergy' and Tr suppressive capacity are intimately linked. Here we show, by dissociating Foxp3-dependent features from those induced by the signals preceding and promoting its expression in mice, that the latter signals include several functional and transcriptional hallmarks of Tr cells. Although its function is required for Tr cell suppressor activity, Foxp3 to a large extent amplifies and fixes pre-established molecular features of Tr cells, including anergy and dependence on paracrine IL-2. Furthermore, Foxp3 solidifies Tr cell lineage stability through modification of cell surface and signalling molecules, resulting in adaptation to the signals required to induce and maintain Tr cells. This adaptation includes Foxp3-dependent repression of cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase 3B, affecting genes responsible for Tr cell homeostasis.
Background: MicroRNAs (miRNAs or miRs) participate in the regulation of several biological processes, including cell differentiation. Recently, miR-34a has been implicated in the differentiation of monocyte-derived dendritic cells, human erythroleukemia cells, and mouse embryonic stem cells. In addition, members of the miR-34 family have been identified as direct p53 targets. However, the function of miR-34a in the control of the differentiation program of specific neural cell types remains largely unknown. Here, we investigated the role of miR-34a in regulating mouse neural stem (NS) cell differentiation. Methodology/Principal Findings: miR-34a overexpression increased postmitotic neurons and neurite elongation of mouse NS cells, whereas anti-miR-34a had the opposite effect. SIRT1 was identified as a target of miR-34a, which may mediate the effect of miR-34a on neurite elongation. In addition, acetylation of p53 (Lys 379) and p53-DNA binding activity were increased and cell death unchanged after miR-34a overexpression, thus reinforcing the role of p53 during neural differentiation. Interestingly, in conditions where SIRT1 was activated by pharmacologic treatment with resveratrol, miR-34a promoted astrocytic differentiation, through a SIRT1-independent mechanism. Conclusions: Our results provide new insight into the molecular mechanisms by which miR-34a modulates neural differentiation, suggesting that miR-34a is required for proper neuronal differentiation, in part, by targeting SIRT1 and modulating p53 activity.
Loss of the de novo DNA methyltransferases Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b in embryonic stem cells obstructs differentiation; however, the role of these enzymes in somatic stem cells is largely unknown. Using conditional ablation, we show that Dnmt3a loss progressively impairs hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) differentiation over serial transplantation, while simultaneously expanding HSC numbers in the bone marrow. Dnmt3a-null HSCs show both increased and decreased methylation at distinct loci, including substantial CpG island hypermethylation. Dnmt3a-null HSCs upregulate HSC multipotency genes and downregulate differentiation factors, and their progeny exhibit global hypomethylation and incomplete repression of HSC-specific genes. These data establish Dnmt3a as a critical participant in the epigenetic silencing of HSC regulatory genes, thereby enabling efficient differentiation.
Despite their importance, the molecular circuits that control the differentiation of naive T cells remain largely unknown. Recent studies that reconstructed regulatory networks in mammalian cells have focused on short-term responses and relied on perturbation-based approaches that cannot be readily applied to primary T cells. Here we combine transcriptional profiling at high temporal resolution, novel computational algorithms, and innovative nanowire-based perturbation tools to systematically derive and experimentally validate a model of the dynamic regulatory network that controls the differentiation of mouse T(H)17 cells, a proinflammatory T-cell subset that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of multiple autoimmune diseases. The T(H)17 transcriptional network consists of two self-reinforcing, but mutually antagonistic, modules, with 12 novel regulators, the coupled action of which may be essential for maintaining the balance between T(H)17 and other CD41 T-cell subsets. Our study identifies and validates 39 regulatory factors, embeds them within a comprehensive temporal network and reveals its organizational principles; it also highlights novel drug targets for controlling T(H)17 cell differentiation.
Memory CD8 T cells are a critical component of protective immunity, and inducing effective memory T-cell responses is a major goal of vaccines against chronic infections and tumours. Considerable effort has gone into designing vaccine regimens that will increase the magnitude of the memory response, but there has been minimal emphasis on developing strategies to improve the functional qualities of memory T cells. Here we show that mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin, also known as FRAP1) is a major regulator of memory CD8 T-cell differentiation, and in contrast to what we expected, the immunosuppressive drug rapamycin has immunostimulatory effects on the generation of memory CD8 T cells. Treatment of mice with rapamycin following acute lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus infection enhanced not only the quantity but also the quality of virus-specific CD8 T cells. Similar effects were seen after immunization of mice with a vaccine based on non-replicating virus-like particles. In addition, rapamycin treatment also enhanced memory T-cell responses in non-human primates following vaccination with modified vaccinia virus Ankara. Rapamycin was effective during both the expansion and contraction phases of the T-cell response; during the expansion phase it increased the number of memory precursors, and during the contraction phase (effector to memory transition) it accelerated the memory T-cell differentiation program. Experiments using RNA interference to inhibit expression of mTOR, raptor (also known as 4932417H02Rik) or FKBP12 (also known as FKBP1A) in antigen-specific CD8 T cells showed that mTOR acts intrinsically through the mTORC1 (mTOR complex 1) pathway to regulate memory T-cell differentiation. Thus these studies identify a molecular pathway regulating memory formation and provide an effective strategy for improving the functional qualities of vaccine- or infection-induced memory T cells.