Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Publications peter-rugg-gunn

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Transcriptional response of Hoxb genes to retinoid signalling is regionally restricted along the neural tube rostrocaudal axis.
Carucci N, Cacci E, Nisi PS, Licursi V, Paul YL, Biagioni S, Negri R, Rugg-Gunn PJ, Lupo G

During vertebrate neural development, positional information is largely specified by extracellular morphogens. Their distribution, however, is very dynamic due to the multiple roles played by the same signals in the developing and adult neural tissue. This suggests that neural progenitors are able to modify their competence to respond to morphogen signalling and autonomously maintain positional identities after their initial specification. In this work, we take advantage of in vitro culture systems of mouse neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) to show that NSPCs isolated from rostral or caudal regions of the mouse neural tube are differentially responsive to retinoic acid (RA), a pivotal morphogen for the specification of posterior neural fates. Hoxb genes are among the best known RA direct targets in the neural tissue, yet we found that RA could promote their transcription only in caudal but not in rostral NSPCs. Correlating with these effects, key RA-responsive regulatory regions in the Hoxb cluster displayed opposite enrichment of activating or repressing histone marks in rostral and caudal NSPCs. Finally, RA was able to strengthen Hoxb chromatin activation in caudal NSPCs, but was ineffective on the repressed Hoxb chromatin of rostral NSPCs. These results suggest that the response of NSPCs to morphogen signalling across the rostrocaudal axis of the neural tube may be gated by the epigenetic configuration of target patterning genes, allowing long-term maintenance of intrinsic positional values in spite of continuously changing extrinsic signals.

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Royal Society open science, 4, , 160913, 2017

PMID: 28484611

Open Access

Comprehensive Cell Surface Protein Profiling Identifies Specific Markers of Human Naive and Primed Pluripotent States.
Collier AJ, Panula SP, Schell JP, Chovanec P, Plaza Reyes A, Petropoulos S, Corcoran AE, Walker R, Douagi I, Lanner F, Rugg-Gunn PJ

Human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) exist in naive and primed states and provide important models to investigate the earliest stages of human development. Naive cells can be obtained through primed-to-naive resetting, but there are no reliable methods to prospectively isolate unmodified naive cells during this process. Here we report comprehensive profiling of cell surface proteins by flow cytometry in naive and primed human PSCs. Several naive-specific, but not primed-specific, proteins were also expressed by pluripotent cells in the human preimplantation embryo. The upregulation of naive-specific cell surface proteins during primed-to-naive resetting enabled the isolation and characterization of live naive cells and intermediate cell populations. This analysis revealed distinct transcriptional and X chromosome inactivation changes associated with the early and late stages of naive cell formation. Thus, identification of state-specific proteins provides a robust set of molecular markers to define the human PSC state and allows new insights into the molecular events leading to naive cell resetting.

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Cell stem cell, , 1875-9777, , 2017

PMID: 28343983

Global reorganisation of cis-regulatory units upon lineage commitment of human embryonic stem cells.
Freire-Pritchett P, Schoenfelder S, Várnai C, Wingett SW, Cairns J, Collier AJ, García-Vílchez R, Furlan-Magaril M, Osborne CS, Fraser PJ, Rugg-Gunn PJ, Spivakov M

Long-range cis-regulatory elements such as enhancers coordinate cell-specific transcriptional programmes by engaging in DNA looping interactions with target promoters. Deciphering the interplay between the promoter connectivity and activity of cis-regulatory elements during lineage commitment is crucial for understanding developmental transcriptional control. Here, we use Promoter Capture Hi-C to generate a high-resolution atlas of chromosomal interactions involving ~22,000 gene promoters in human pluripotent and lineage-committed cells, identifying putative target genes for known and predicted enhancer elements. We reveal extensive dynamics of cis-regulatory contacts upon lineage commitment, including the acquisition and loss of promoter interactions. This spatial rewiring occurs preferentially with predicted changes in the activity of cis-regulatory elements, and is associated with changes in target gene expression. Our results provide a global and integrated view of promoter interactome dynamics during lineage commitment of human pluripotent cells.

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eLife, 6, 2050-084X, , 2017

PMID: 28332981

Open Access

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

XACT Noncoding RNA Competes with XIST in the Control of X Chromosome Activity during Human Early Development.
Vallot C, Patrat C, Collier AJ, Huret C, Casanova M, Liyakat Ali TM, Tosolini M, Frydman N, Heard E, Rugg-Gunn PJ, Rougeulle C

Sex chromosome dosage compensation is essential in most metazoans, but the developmental timing and underlying mechanisms vary significantly, even among placental mammals. Here we identify human-specific mechanisms regulating X chromosome activity in early embryonic development. Single-cell RNA sequencing and imaging revealed co-activation and accumulation of the long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) XACT and XIST on active X chromosomes in both early human pre-implantation embryos and naive human embryonic stem cells. In these contexts, the XIST RNA adopts an unusual, highly dispersed organization, which may explain why it does not trigger X chromosome inactivation at this stage. Functional studies in transgenic mouse cells show that XACT influences XIST accumulation in cis. Our findings therefore suggest a mechanism involving antagonistic activity of XIST and XACT in controlling X chromosome activity in early human embryos, and they highlight the contribution of rapidly evolving lncRNAs to species-specific developmental mechanisms.

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Cell stem cell, , 1875-9777, , 2016

PMID: 27989768

Open Access

Deletion of the Polycomb-Group Protein EZH2 Leads to Compromised Self-Renewal and Differentiation Defects in Human Embryonic Stem Cells.
Collinson A, Collier AJ, Morgan NP, Sienerth AR, Chandra T, Andrews S, Rugg-Gunn PJ

Through the histone methyltransferase EZH2, the Polycomb complex PRC2 mediates H3K27me3 and is associated with transcriptional repression. PRC2 regulates cell-fate decisions in model organisms; however, its role in regulating cell differentiation during human embryogenesis is unknown. Here, we report the characterization of EZH2-deficient human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). H3K27me3 was lost upon EZH2 deletion, identifying an essential requirement for EZH2 in methylating H3K27 in hESCs, in contrast to its non-essential role in mouse ESCs. Developmental regulators were derepressed in EZH2-deficient hESCs, and single-cell analysis revealed an unexpected acquisition of lineage-restricted transcriptional programs. EZH2-deficient hESCs show strongly reduced self-renewal and proliferation, thereby identifying a more severe phenotype compared to mouse ESCs. EZH2-deficient hESCs can initiate differentiation toward developmental lineages; however, they cannot fully differentiate into mature specialized tissues. Thus, EZH2 is required for stable ESC self-renewal, regulation of transcriptional programs, and for late-stage differentiation in this model of early human development.

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Cell reports, 17, 2211-1247, 2700-2714, 2016

PMID: 27926872

Open Access

Crosstalk between pluripotency factors and higher-order chromatin organization.
Lopes Novo C, Rugg-Gunn PJ

Pluripotent cells are characterized by a globally open and accessible chromatin organization that is thought to contribute to cellular plasticity and developmental decision-making. We recently identified the pluripotency factor Nanog as a key regulator of this form of chromatin architecture in mouse embryonic stem cells. In particular, we demonstrated that the transcription factors Nanog and Sall1 co-dependently mediate the epigenetic state of pericentromeric heterochromatin to reinforce a more open and accessible organization in pluripotent cells. Here, we summarize our main findings and place the work into a broader context. We explore how heterochromatin domains could be targets of transcriptional networks in pluripotent cells and are coordinated with cell state. We propose this integration may be to balance the requirement for a dynamic and plastic chromatin organization in pluripotent cells, together with priming for a more restrictive nuclear compartmentalization that is triggered rapidly upon lineage commitment.

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

PMID: 27759487

Open Access

Comparative Principles of DNA Methylation Reprogramming during Human and Mouse In Vitro Primordial Germ Cell Specification.
von Meyenn F, Berrens RV, Andrews S, Santos F, Collier AJ, Krueger F, Osorno R, Dean W, Rugg-Gunn PJ, Reik W

Primordial germ cell (PGC) development is characterized by global epigenetic remodeling, which resets genomic potential and establishes an epigenetic ground state. Here we recapitulate PGC specification in vitro from naive embryonic stem cells and characterize the early events of epigenetic reprogramming during the formation of the human and mouse germline. Following rapid de novo DNA methylation during priming to epiblast-like cells, methylation is globally erased in PGC-like cells. Repressive chromatin marks (H3K9me2/3) and transposable elements are enriched at demethylation-resistant regions, while active chromatin marks (H3K4me3 or H3K27ac) are more prominent at regions that demethylate faster. The dynamics of specification and epigenetic reprogramming show species-specific differences, in particular markedly slower reprogramming kinetics in the human germline. Differences in developmental kinetics may be explained by differential regulation of epigenetic modifiers. Our work establishes a robust and faithful experimental system of the early events of epigenetic reprogramming and regulation in the germline.

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Developmental cell, 39, 1878-1551, 104-115, 2016

PMID: 27728778

Open Access

The pluripotency factor Nanog regulates pericentromeric heterochromatin organization in mouse embryonic stem cells.
Novo CL, Tang C, Ahmed K, Djuric U, Fussner E, Mullin NP, Morgan NP, Hayre J, Sienerth AR, Elderkin S, Nishinakamura R, Chambers I, Ellis J, Bazett-Jones DP, Rugg-Gunn PJ

An open and decondensed chromatin organization is a defining property of pluripotency. Several epigenetic regulators have been implicated in maintaining an open chromatin organization, but how these processes are connected to the pluripotency network is unknown. Here, we identified a new role for the transcription factor NANOG as a key regulator connecting the pluripotency network with constitutive heterochromatin organization in mouse embryonic stem cells. Deletion of Nanog leads to chromatin compaction and the remodeling of heterochromatin domains. Forced expression of NANOG in epiblast stem cells is sufficient to decompact chromatin. NANOG associates with satellite repeats within heterochromatin domains, contributing to an architecture characterized by highly dispersed chromatin fibers, low levels of H3K9me3, and high major satellite transcription, and the strong transactivation domain of NANOG is required for this organization. The heterochromatin-associated protein SALL1 is a direct cofactor for NANOG, and loss of Sall1 recapitulates the Nanog-null phenotype, but the loss of Sall1 can be circumvented through direct recruitment of the NANOG transactivation domain to major satellites. These results establish a direct connection between the pluripotency network and chromatin organization and emphasize that maintaining an open heterochromatin architecture is a highly regulated process in embryonic stem cells.

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Genes & development, , 1549-5477, , 2016

PMID: 27125671

Open Access

Chromatin organization in pluripotent cells: emerging approaches to study and disrupt function.
Lopes Novo C, Rugg-Gunn PJ

Translating the vast amounts of genomic and epigenomic information accumulated on the linear genome into three-dimensional models of nuclear organization is a current major challenge. In response to this challenge, recent technological innovations based on chromosome conformation capture methods in combination with increasingly powerful functional approaches have revealed exciting insights into key aspects of genome regulation. These findings have led to an emerging model where the genome is folded and compartmentalized into highly conserved topological domains that are further divided into functional subdomains containing physical loops that bring cis-regulatory elements to close proximity. Targeted functional experiments, largely based on designable DNA-binding proteins, have begun to define the major architectural proteins required to establish and maintain appropriate genome regulation. Here, we focus on the accessible and well-characterized system of pluripotent cells to review the functional role of chromatin organization in regulating pluripotency, differentiation and reprogramming.

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Briefings in functional genomics, , 2041-2657, , 2015

PMID: 26206085

Open Access

Annual meeting of the EpiGeneSys Network of Excellence - Advancing epigenetics towards systems biology.
Houseley J, Hill CS, Rugg-Gunn PJ

The third annual meeting of the EpiGeneSys network brought together epigenetics and systems biologists to report on collaborative projects that apply quantitative approaches to understanding complex epigenetic processes. The figure shown represents one meeting highlight, which was the unexpected emergence of genotype versus epigenotype in control of cell state.

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BioEssays, 2015, , , , 2015

PMID: 25776341
DOI: 10.1002/bies.201500015

Open Access

Epigenetic features of the mouse trophoblast.
PJ Rugg-Gunn

Trophoblast cells are required for the growth and survival of the fetus during pregnancy, and failure to maintain appropriate trophoblast regulation is associated with placental insufficiencies and intrauterine growth restriction. Development of the trophoblast lineage is mediated by interactions between genetic and epigenetic factors. This review will focus on new insights that have been gained from analysis of mouse models into the epigenetic mechanisms that are required for the early establishment of the trophoblast lineage and for the development of specialized cell types of the fetal placenta. In particular, the importance of DNA methylation, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine and histone modifications in orchestrating trophoblast gene expression and functional outcome will be discussed. These insights are beginning to be extended towards human studies and initial results suggest that the causes and consequences of a variety of placental pathologies are related to epigenetic processes. Furthermore, the epigenetic landscape that regulates trophoblast cells seems to be particularly vulnerable to perturbation during development. This has major implications for diet and other environmental factors during pregnancy.

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Reproductive biomedicine online, 25, 1, 21-30, 2012

PMID: 22578826
DOI: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2012.01.012

Cell-surface proteomics identifies lineage-specific markers of embryo-derived stem cells.
PJ Rugg-Gunn, BJ Cox, F Lanner, P Sharma, V Ignatchenko, AC McDonald, J Garner, AO Gramolini, J Rossant, T Kislinger

The advent of reprogramming and its impact on stem cell biology has renewed interest in lineage restriction in mammalian embryos, the source of embryonic (ES), epiblast (EpiSC), trophoblast (TS), and extraembryonic endoderm (XEN) stem cell lineages. Isolation of specific cell types during stem cell differentiation and reprogramming, and also directly from embryos, is a major technical challenge because few cell-surface proteins are known that can distinguish each cell type. We provide a large-scale proteomic resource of cell-surface proteins for the four embryo-derived stem cell lines. We validated 27 antibodies against lineage-specific cell-surface markers, which enabled investigation of specific cell populations during ES-EpiSC reprogramming and ES-to-XEN differentiation. Identified markers also allowed prospective isolation and characterization of viable lineage progenitors from blastocysts by flow cytometry. These results provide a comprehensive stem cell proteomic resource and enable new approaches to interrogate the mechanisms that regulate cell fate specification.

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Developmental cell, 22, 4, 887-901, 2012

PMID: 22424930
DOI: 10.1016/j.devcel.2012.01.005

Open Access

Global chromatin architecture reflects pluripotency and lineage commitment in the early mouse embryo.
K Ahmed, H Dehghani, P Rugg-Gunn, E Fussner, J Rossant, DP Bazett-Jones

An open chromatin architecture devoid of compact chromatin is thought to be associated with pluripotency in embryonic stem cells. Establishing this distinct epigenetic state may also be required for somatic cell reprogramming. However, there has been little direct examination of global structural domains of chromatin during the founding and loss of pluripotency that occurs in preimplantation mouse development. Here, we used electron spectroscopic imaging to examine large-scale chromatin structural changes during the transition from one-cell to early postimplantation stage embryos. In one-cell embryos chromatin was extensively dispersed with no noticeable accumulation at the nuclear envelope. Major changes were observed from one-cell to two-cell stage embryos, where chromatin became confined to discrete blocks of compaction and with an increased concentration at the nuclear envelope. In eight-cell embryos and pluripotent epiblast cells, chromatin was primarily distributed as an extended meshwork of uncompacted fibres and was indistinguishable from chromatin organization in embryonic stem cells. In contrast, lineage-committed trophectoderm and primitive endoderm cells, and the stem cell lines derived from these tissues, displayed higher levels of chromatin compaction, suggesting an association between developmental potential and chromatin organisation. We examined this association in vivo and found that deletion of Oct4, a factor required for pluripotency, caused the formation of large blocks of compact chromatin in putative epiblast cells. Together, these studies show that an open chromatin architecture is established in the embryonic lineages during development and is sufficient to distinguish pluripotent cells from tissue-restricted progenitor cells.

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PloS one, 5, 5, e10531, 2010

PMID: 20479880
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010531

Open Access

Distinct histone modifications in stem cell lines and tissue lineages from the early mouse embryo.
PJ Rugg-Gunn, BJ Cox, A Ralston, J Rossant

A unique property of the mammalian embryo is that stem cells can be derived from its early tissue lineages. These lineages will give rise to the fetus as well as essential extraembryonic tissues. Understanding how chromatin regulation participates in establishment of these lineages in the embryo and their derived stem cells provides insight that will critically inform our understanding of embryogenesis and stem cell biology. Here, we compare the genomewide location of active and repressive histone modifications in embryonic stem cells, trophoblast stem cells, and extraembryonic endoderm stem cells from the mouse. Our results show that the active modification H3K4me3 has a similar role in the three stem cell types, but the repressive modification H3K27me3 varies in abundance and genomewide distribution. Thus, alternative mechanisms mediate transcriptional repression in stem cells from the embryo. In addition, using carrier chromatin immunoprecipitation we show that bivalent histone domains seen in embryonic stem cells exist in pluripotent cells of the early embryo. However, the epigenetic status of extraembryonic progenitor cells in the embryo did not entirely reflect the extraembryonic stem cell lines. These studies indicate that histone modification mechanisms may differ between early embryo lineages and emphasize the importance of examining in vivo and in vitro progenitor cells.

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107, 24, 10783-90, 2010

PMID: 20479220
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0914507107

Open Access

The challenge of regulating rapidly changing science: stem cell legislation in Canada.
PJ Rugg-Gunn, U Ogbogu, J Rossant, T Caulfield

We describe how recent advances in stem cell research may be interpreted by various regulatory regimes and use Canada as a model to demonstrate how broad-based prohibitive legislation can unintentionally restrict research direction. We encourage scientists and policymakers to collaborate to ensure a clear regulatory framework that accommodates future advances.

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Cell stem cell, 4, 4, 285-8, 2009

PMID: 19341618
DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2009.03.004

Open Access

Status of genomic imprinting in human embryonic stem cells as revealed by a large cohort of independently derived and maintained lines.
PJ Rugg-Gunn, AC Ferguson-Smith, RA Pedersen

Investigation of the epigenetic stability of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) is a crucial step for their use in cell-replacement therapies, as well as for assessing whether hESCs model epigenetic regulation in human pre-implantation cell types. To address these issues, we have examined the expression of imprinted genes in a previous study and more recently in 46 individual hESC lines as part of the International Stem Cell Initiative. Our results show that nearly all hESC lines examined possessed a substantial degree of epigenetic stability, despite differences in genetic background and in their derivation and initial propagation conditions. However, some hESCs did show loss of allele-specific expression, which could have implications for hESC differentiation and epigenetic stability (both in vitro and after clinical transplantation). A benefit of our and other recent studies of genomic imprinting in hESCs was the identification of imprinted genes that provide a useful indication of epigenetic stability. SNRPN, IPW and KCNQ1OT1 were highly stable and thus appeared insensitive to perturbation; in contrast, H19, IGF2 and MEG3 were more variable and thus could potentially provide a sensitive indication of epigenetic status. In this review, we examine the differences between imprinted genes in their susceptibility to perturbation and discuss the potential molecular basis for these differences. This examination provides insight into the regulation of genomic imprinting in hESCs and the corresponding peri-implantation stages of human development.

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Human molecular genetics, 16 Spec No. 2, , R243-51, 2007

PMID: 17911167
DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddm245

Open Access

Derivation of pluripotent epiblast stem cells from mammalian embryos.
IG Brons, LE Smithers, MW Trotter, P Rugg-Gunn, B Sun, SM Chuva de Sousa Lopes, SK Howlett, A Clarkson, L Ahrlund-Richter, RA Pedersen, L Vallier

Although the first mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell lines were derived 25 years ago using feeder-layer-based blastocyst cultures, subsequent efforts to extend the approach to other mammals, including both laboratory and domestic species, have been relatively unsuccessful. The most notable exceptions were the derivation of non-human primate ES cell lines followed shortly thereafter by their derivation of human ES cells. Despite the apparent common origin and the similar pluripotency of mouse and human embryonic stem cells, recent studies have revealed that they use different signalling pathways to maintain their pluripotent status. Mouse ES cells depend on leukaemia inhibitory factor and bone morphogenetic protein, whereas their human counterparts rely on activin (INHBA)/nodal (NODAL) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF). Here we show that pluripotent stem cells can be derived from the late epiblast layer of post-implantation mouse and rat embryos using chemically defined, activin-containing culture medium that is sufficient for long-term maintenance of human embryonic stem cells. Our results demonstrate that activin/Nodal signalling has an evolutionarily conserved role in the derivation and the maintenance of pluripotency in these novel stem cells. Epiblast stem cells provide a valuable experimental system for determining whether distinctions between mouse and human embryonic stem cells reflect species differences or diverse temporal origins.

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Nature, 448, 7150, 191-5, 2007

PMID: 17597762
DOI: 10.1038/nature05950

Characterization of human embryonic stem cell lines by the International Stem Cell Initiative.
, O Adewumi, B Aflatoonian, L Ahrlund-Richter, M Amit, PW Andrews, G Beighton, PA Bello, N Benvenisty, LS Berry, S Bevan, B Blum, J Brooking, KG Chen, AB Choo, GA Churchill, M Corbel, I Damjanov, JS Draper, P Dvorak, K Emanuelsson, RA Fleck, A Ford, K Gertow, M Gertsenstein, PJ Gokhale, RS Hamilton, A Hampl, LE Healy, O Hovatta, J Hyllner, MP Imreh, J Itskovitz-Eldor, J Jackson, JL Johnson, M Jones, K Kee, BL King, BB Knowles, M Lako, F Lebrin, BS Mallon, D Manning, Y Mayshar, RD McKay, AE Michalska, M Mikkola, M Mileikovsky, SL Minger, HD Moore, CL Mummery, A Nagy, N Nakatsuji, CM O'Brien, SK Oh, C Olsson, T Otonkoski, KY Park, R Passier, H Patel, M Patel, R Pedersen, MF Pera, MS Piekarczyk, RA Pera, BE Reubinoff, AJ Robins, J Rossant, P Rugg-Gunn, TC Schulz, H Semb, ES Sherrer, H Siemen, GN Stacey, M Stojkovic, H Suemori, J Szatkiewicz, T Turetsky, T Tuuri, S van den Brink, K Vintersten, S Vuoristo, D Ward, TA Weaver, LA Young, W Zhang

The International Stem Cell Initiative characterized 59 human embryonic stem cell lines from 17 laboratories worldwide. Despite diverse genotypes and different techniques used for derivation and maintenance, all lines exhibited similar expression patterns for several markers of human embryonic stem cells. They expressed the glycolipid antigens SSEA3 and SSEA4, the keratan sulfate antigens TRA-1-60, TRA-1-81, GCTM2 and GCT343, and the protein antigens CD9, Thy1 (also known as CD90), tissue-nonspecific alkaline phosphatase and class 1 HLA, as well as the strongly developmentally regulated genes NANOG, POU5F1 (formerly known as OCT4), TDGF1, DNMT3B, GABRB3 and GDF3. Nevertheless, the lines were not identical: differences in expression of several lineage markers were evident, and several imprinted genes showed generally similar allele-specific expression patterns, but some gene-dependent variation was observed. Also, some female lines expressed readily detectable levels of XIST whereas others did not. No significant contamination of the lines with mycoplasma, bacteria or cytopathic viruses was detected.

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Nature biotechnology, 25, 7, 803-16, 2007

PMID: 17572666
DOI: 10.1038/nbt1318

Human embryonic stem cells as a model for studying epigenetic regulation during early development.
Rugg-Gunn PJ, Ferguson-Smith AC, Pedersen RA

In order to exploit the exceptional potential of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in cell-replacement therapies, the genetic and epigenetic factors controlling early human development must be better defined. Limitations in human embryonic material restrict the scale of studies that can be performed, and therefore an in vitro model in which to study epigenetic regulation in human preimplantation cell types would be desirable. HESCs could provide such a model, but since they are derived from a stage in mammalian development when the genome is undergoing global epigenetic remodelling, it is unclear whether their epigenetic status would be stable or subject to variation. Herein, we discuss recent work that examines allele-specific imprinted gene expression and methylation patterns, thereby demonstrating that hESCs maintain a substantial degree of epigenetic stability during culture. Therefore, we suggest that hESCs could provide a model for studying epigenetic regulation during the early stages of human cellular pluripotency and differentiation. Furthermore, we propose specific experiments using such a model to address important questions pertaining to epigenetic mechanisms of certain human disorders.

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Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.), 4, 1551-4005, 1323-6, 2005

PMID: 16205114

Open Access

Epigenetic status of human embryonic stem cells.
PJ Rugg-Gunn, AC Ferguson-Smith, RA Pedersen

We examined the allele-specific expression of six imprinted genes and the methylation profiles of three imprinting control regions to assess the epigenetic status of human embryonic stem cells. We identified generally monoallelic gene expression and normal methylation patterns. During prolonged passage, one cell line became biallelic with respect to H19, but without loss of the gametic methylation imprint. These data argue for a substantial degree of epigenetic stability in human embryonic stem cells.

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Nature genetics, 37, 6, 585-7, 2005

PMID: 15864307
DOI: 10.1038/ng1556

Enhancing and diminishing gene function in human embryonic stem cells.
Vallier L, Rugg-Gunn PJ, Bouhon IA, Andersson FK, Sadler AJ, Pedersen RA

It is widely recognized that gain- and loss-of-function approaches are essential for understanding the functions of specific genes, and such approaches would be particularly valuable in studies involving human embryonic stem (hES) cells. We describe a simple and efficient approach using lipofection to transfect hES cells, which enabled us to generate hES cell lines expressing naturally fluorescent green or red proteins without affecting cell pluripotency. We used these cell lines to establish a means of diminishing gene function using small interfering (si)RNAs, which were effective at knocking down gene expression in hES cells. We then demonstrated that stable expression of siRNA could knock down the expression of endogenous genes. Application of these gain- and loss-of-function approaches should have widespread use, not only in revealing the developmental roles of specific human genes, but also for their utility in modulating differentiation.

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Stem cells (Dayton, Ohio), 22, 1066-5099, 2-11, 2004

PMID: 14688386

Open Access