Genome-wide gain-of-function screen identifies novel regulators of pluripotency

Ramzey Abujarour, Jem Efe, Sheng Ding
Stem Cells 2010, 28 (9): 1487-97
Pluripotent stem cells are characterized by the capacity to self-renew and to differentiate into all the cell types of the body. To identify novel regulators of pluripotency, we screened cDNA libraries (>30,000 clones) in P19 embryonal carcinoma cells for factors that modulate the expression of a luciferase reporter driven by the promoter of the pluripotency master regulator Nanog. Ninety confirmed hits activated the reporter and 14 confirmed hits inhibited the reporter by more than two-fold. The identified hits were evaluated by gain- and loss-of-functions approaches. The reporter-activating hits Timp2, Hig2, and Mki67ip promoted embryonic stem (ES) cell self-renewal when episomally overexpressed in ES cells, whereas the reporter-inhibiting hits PU.1/Spi1, Prkaca, and Jun induced differentiation of ES cells. Conversely, the knockdown of the activating hits Timp2, Mki67ip, Esrrg, and Dusp7 in ES cells induced differentiation, whereas the knockdown of the reporter-inhibiting hit PU.1/Spi1 led to inhibition of differentiation. One of the novel hits, the RNA-binding protein Mki67ip was further characterized, and found to be overexpressed in ES cells and in early development and downregulated during differentiation. The knockdown of Mki67ip led to the differentiation of ES cells, decreased growth rate, reduction in pluripotency markers, and induction of lineage-specific markers. In addition, colocalization and coimmunoprecipitation experiments suggest that Mki67ip promotes ES cell self-renewal via a mechanism involving nucleophosmin, a multifunctional nucleolar protein upregulated in stem cells and cancer.

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