Synergetic cooperation of microRNAs with transcription factors in iPS cell generation

Jie Chen, Guiying Wang, Chenqi Lu, Xudong Guo, Wujun Hong, Jiuhong Kang, Jianmin Wang
PloS One 2012, 7 (7): e40849
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells were first generated by forced expression of transcription factors (TFs) in fibroblasts. Recently, iPS cells have been generated more rapidly and efficiently using miRNAs with or without other transcription factors. However, the specific and collaborative roles of miRNAs and transcription factors in pluripotency acquisition and maintenance remain to be further investigated. Here, based on the miRNA profiling in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), MEFs infected with Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4 and c-Myc (OSKM) for 1, 2, 4, or 8 day, two iPS cell lines and ES cells, representing iPS activation and maintenance steps, we found that two unique miRNA sets are responsible for different steps of iPS generation, and the miRNA expression profiles of iPS cells are very similar to that of ES cells. Furthermore, we searched for transcription factors binding sites at the promoter regions of up-regulated miRNAs, and found that up-regulated miRNAs such as the miR-429-200 and miR-17 clusters are directly activated by exogenous TFs. The GO and pathway enrichment for candidate target gene sets of miRNAs or OSKM provided a clear picture of division and collaboration between miRNAs and OSKM during completion of the iPS process. Compared with the pathways regulated by OSKM, we found that miRNAs play critical roles in regulating iPS-specific pathways, such as the adherens junction and Wnt signaling pathways. Furthermore, we blocked miRNA expression using Dicer knockdown, and found that the level of miRNAs was decreased following this treatment, and the efficiency of iPS generation was significantly repressed. By combining high-throughput analysis, biostatistical analysis and functional experiments, this study provides new ideas for investigating the important roles of miRNAs, the mechanisms of miRNAs and related signaling pathways, and the potential for many more applications of miRNAs in somatic cell reprogramming.

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