Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Peter Rugg-Gunn

Research Summary

We are interested in understanding how the epigenome is established during human development and stem cell differentiation, and how epigenetic information changes over the life course of a person.

To research these topics, we use different types of stem cell (primarily human pluripotent stem cells) in combination with a variety of molecular and genetic approaches to characterise and perturb their epigenomes. The stem cell models are sometimes complemented with the characterisation of mouse and human embryos at very early stages in their development.

This research is important because establishing our epigenomes correctly during development has long lasting consequences on our health, and we need to know more about how it happens and why it sometimes goes wrong. Our work also provides new avenues for improving the epigenetic stability of human pluripotent stem cells, and our abilitiy to drive their specialisation towards useful cell types, which are essential requirements to fulfill their promise in regenerative medicine. 

Latest Publications

DNA methylation is dispensable for changes in global chromatin architecture but required for chromocentre formation in early stem cell differentiation.
Hassan-Zadeh V, Rugg-Gunn P, Bazett-Jones DP

Epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs), which are pluripotent cells isolated from early post-implantation mouse embryos (E5.5), show both similarities and differences compared to mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs), isolated earlier from the inner cell mass (ICM) of the E3.5 embryo. Previously, we have observed that while chromatin is very dispersed in E3.5 ICM, compact chromatin domains and chromocentres appear in E5.5 epiblasts after embryo implantation. Given that the observed chromatin re-organization in E5.5 epiblasts coincides with an increase in DNA methylation, in this study, we aimed to examine the role of DNA methylation in chromatin re-organization during the in vitro conversion of ESCs to EpiSCs. The requirement for DNA methylation was determined by converting both wild-type and DNA methylation-deficient ESCs to EpiSCs, followed by structural analysis with electron spectroscopic imaging (ESI). We show that the chromatin re-organization which occurs in vivo can be re-capitulated in vitro during the ESC to EpiSC conversion. Indeed, after 7 days in EpiSC media, compact chromatin domains begin to appear throughout the nuclear volume, creating a chromatin organization similar to E5 epiblasts and embryo-derived EpiSCs. Our data demonstrate that DNA methylation is dispensable for this global chromatin re-organization but required for the compaction of pericentromeric chromatin into chromocentres.

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Chromosoma, , 1432-0886, , 2017

PMID: 28084535

Derivation and Culture of Epiblast Stem Cell (EpiSC) Lines.
Rugg-Gunn P

This protocol describes the derivation and culture of epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs) from early postimplantation epiblasts. EpiSCs can be maintained in an undifferentiated state and retain the ability to generate tissues from all three germ layers in vitro and to form teratomas in vivo. However, they seem unable to form chimeras. Whether this is due to differences in developmental status or a cellular incompatibility (e.g., cell adhesion) between EpiSCs and the host inner cell mass (ICM) is currently unclear. Other differences between mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells and EpiSCs also exist, including gene expression profiles and different growth factor requirements for self-renewal. Thus, EpiSCs provide an important in vitro model for studying the establishment and maintenance of pluripotency in postimplantation epiblast tissues.

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Cold Spring Harbor protocols, 2017, 1559-6095, pdb.prot093971, 2017

PMID: 28049783

Derivation and Culture of Extra-Embryonic Endoderm Stem Cell Lines.
Rugg-Gunn P

Whereas embryonic stem (ES) cells are isolated from the embryonic lineage of the blastocyst, other stable stem cell lines can be derived from the extraembryonic tissues of the early mouse embryo. Trophoblast stem (TS) cells are derived from trophectoderm and early postimplantation trophoblast, and extraembryonic endoderm stem (XEN) cells are derived from primitive endoderm. The derivation of XEN cell lines from 3.5-dpc mouse blastocysts, described here, is similar to the derivation of TS cell lines. TS and XEN cells can self-renew in vitro and differentiate in vitro and in chimeras (in vivo) in a lineage-appropriate manner, showing the developmental potential of their origin, thus providing important models to study the mouse extraembryonic lineages.

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Cold Spring Harbor protocols, 2017, 1559-6095, pdb.prot093963, 2017

PMID: 28049782

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Latest Publications

Derivation and Culture of Epiblast Stem Cell (EpiSC) Lines.

Rugg-Gunn P

Cold Spring Harbor protocols
2017 1559-6095:pdb.prot093971 (2017)

PMID: 28049783

Derivation and Culture of Extra-Embryonic Endoderm Stem Cell Lines.

Rugg-Gunn P

Cold Spring Harbor protocols
2017 1559-6095:pdb.prot093963 (2017)

PMID: 28049782

Crosstalk between pluripotency factors and higher-order chromatin organization.

Lopes Novo C, Rugg-Gunn PJ

Nucleus (Austin, Tex.)
1949-1042:0 (2016)

PMID: 27759487

Comparative Principles of DNA Methylation Reprogramming during Human and Mouse In Vitro Primordial Germ Cell Specification.

von Meyenn F, Berrens RV, Andrews S

Developmental cell
39 1878-1551:104-115 (2016)

PMID: 27728778

Chromatin organization in pluripotent cells: emerging approaches to study and disrupt function.

Lopes Novo C, Rugg-Gunn PJ

Briefings in functional genomics
2041-2657: (2015)

PMID: 26206085

Epigenetic features of the mouse trophoblast.

PJ Rugg-Gunn

Reproductive biomedicine online
25 1:21-30 (2012)

DOI: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2012.01.012

PMID: 22578826

Cell-surface proteomics identifies lineage-specific markers of embryo-derived stem cells.

PJ Rugg-Gunn, BJ Cox, F Lanner

Developmental cell
22 4:887-901 (2012)

DOI: 10.1016/j.devcel.2012.01.005

PMID: 22424930