Doctor of Philosophy, Fudan University (2009)
Marius Wernig, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Available methods for differentiating human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent cells (iPSCs) into neurons are often cumbersome, slow, and variable. Alternatively, human fibroblasts can be directly converted into induced neuronal (iN) cells. However, with present techniques conversion is inefficient, synapse formation is limited, and only small amounts of neurons can be generated. Here, we show that human ESCs and iPSCs can be converted into functional iN cells with nearly 100% yield and purity in less than 2 weeks by forced expression of a single transcription factor. The resulting ES-iN or iPS-iN cells exhibit quantitatively reproducible properties independent of the cell line of origin, form mature pre- and postsynaptic specializations, and integrate into existing synaptic networks when transplanted into mouse brain. As illustrated by selected examples, our approach enables large-scale studies of human neurons for questions such as analyses of human diseases, examination of human-specific genes, and drug screening.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.05.029
View details for PubMedID 23764284
Transplantation of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) is a promising potential therapeutic strategy for diseases affecting myelin. However, the derivation of engraftable OPCs from human pluripotent stem cells has proven difficult and primary OPCs are not readily available. Here we report the generation of induced OPCs (iOPCs) by direct lineage conversion. Forced expression of the three transcription factors Sox10, Olig2 and Zfp536 was sufficient to reprogram mouse and rat fibroblasts into iOPCs with morphologies and gene expression signatures resembling primary OPCs. More importantly, iOPCs gave rise to mature oligodendrocytes that could ensheath multiple host axons when co-cultured with primary dorsal root ganglion cells and formed myelin after transplantation into shiverer mice. We propose direct lineage reprogramming as a viable alternative approach for the generation of OPCs for use in disease modeling and regenerative medicine.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nbt.2564
View details for PubMedID 23584610
Transcription factors of the achaete-scute and atonal bHLH proneural gene family play important roles in neuronal differentiation. They are also involved in neuronal subtype specification through collaboration with homeodomain (HD) transcription factors. However, concerted regulation of these genes and in turn progenitor fate toward distinct lineages within the developing vertebrate brain is not well understood. Fezf2 is an evolutionarily conserved zinc finger protein important for monoaminergic neuronal development in zebrafish. Here, we show that Fezf2 is also critical for GABAergic neuronal fate and investigate how a single transcription factor regulates the identity of multiple neuronal lineages in the developing ventral forebrain. First, our genetic analyses reveal the requirement of the achaete-scute-like genes ascl1a and 1b in serotonergic and GABAergic neuron development, but they are dispensable for the specification of dopaminergic neurons, which is dependent on the atonal-like gene neurog1. Second, the expression of fezf2, ascl1a/1b, and neurog1 demarcates distinct progenitor subpopulations, where fezf2 is required for activating but not maintaining the expression of bHLH genes. Third, Fezf2 is required to activate HD genes otpb and dlx2, which are involved in dopaminergic and GABAergic neuronal development, respectively. Finally, we uncover that Fezf2 is sufficient to increase dopaminergic neuronal numbers but not serotonergic or GABAergic lineages. Together, these findings reveal new mechanisms by which multilineage differentiation is coordinately regulated by a single transcription factor in the vertebrate ventral forebrain.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2216-12.2012
View details for Web of Science ID 000307640000015
View details for PubMedID 22875928
Asymmetric division of progenitor/stem cells generates both self-renewing and differentiating progeny and is fundamental to development and regeneration. How this process is regulated in the vertebrate brain remains incompletely understood. Here, we use time-lapse imaging to track radial glia progenitor behavior in the developing zebrafish brain. We find that asymmetric division invariably generates a basal self-renewing daughter and an apical differentiating sibling. Gene expression and genetic mosaic analysis further show that the apical daughter is the source of Notch ligand that is essential to maintain higher Notch activity in the basal daughter. Notably, establishment of this intralineage and directional Notch signaling requires the intrinsic polarity regulator Partitioning defective protein-3 (Par-3), which segregates the fate determinant Mind bomb unequally to the apical daughter, thereby restricting the self-renewal potential to the basal daughter. These findings reveal with single-cell resolution how self-renewal and differentiation become precisely segregated within asymmetrically dividing neural progenitor/stem lineages.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.01.031
View details for Web of Science ID 000302893800010
View details for PubMedID 22500631
Cellular plasticity is a major focus of investigation in developmental biology. The recent discovery that induced neuronal (iN) cells can be generated from mouse and human fibroblasts by expression of defined transcription factors suggested that cell fate plasticity is much wider than previously anticipated. In this review, we summarize the most recent developments in this nascent field and suggest criteria to help define and categorize iN cells that take into account the complexity of neuronal identity.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.stem.2011.11.015
View details for Web of Science ID 000297895000012
View details for PubMedID 22136927
Several recent studies have showed that mouse and human fibroblasts can be directly reprogrammed into induced neuronal (iN) cells, bypassing a pluripotent intermediate state. However, fibroblasts represent heterogeneous mesenchymal progenitor cells that potentially contain neural crest lineages, and the cell of origin remained undefined. This raises the fundamental question of whether lineage reprogramming is possible between cell types derived from different germ layers. Here, we demonstrate that terminally differentiated hepatocytes can be directly converted into functional iN cells. Importantly, single-cell and genome-wide expression analyses showed that fibroblast- and hepatocyte-derived iN cells not only induced a neuronal transcriptional program, but also silenced their donor transcriptome. The remaining donor signature decreased over time and could not support functional hepatocyte properties. Thus, the reprogramming factors lead to a binary lineage switch decision rather than an induction of hybrid phenotypes, but iN cells retain a small but detectable epigenetic memory of their donor cells.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.stem.2011.09.002
View details for Web of Science ID 000296041200015
View details for PubMedID 21962918
Somatic cell nuclear transfer, cell fusion, or expression of lineage-specific factors have been shown to induce cell-fate changes in diverse somatic cell types. We recently observed that forced expression of a combination of three transcription factors, Brn2 (also known as Pou3f2), Ascl1 and Myt1l, can efficiently convert mouse fibroblasts into functional induced neuronal (iN) cells. Here we show that the same three factors can generate functional neurons from human pluripotent stem cells as early as 6?days after transgene activation. When combined with the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor NeuroD1, these factors could also convert fetal and postnatal human fibroblasts into iN cells showing typical neuronal morphologies and expressing multiple neuronal markers, even after downregulation of the exogenous transcription factors. Importantly, the vast majority of human iN cells were able to generate action potentials and many matured to receive synaptic contacts when co-cultured with primary mouse cortical neurons. Our data demonstrate that non-neural human somatic cells, as well as pluripotent stem cells, can be converted directly into neurons by lineage-determining transcription factors. These methods may facilitate robust generation of patient-specific human neurons for in vitro disease modelling or future applications in regenerative medicine.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nature10202
View details for Web of Science ID 000293731900039
View details for PubMedID 21617644
Identification of transcription factor targets is critical to understanding gene regulatory networks. Here, we uncover transcription factor binding sites and target genes employing systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX). Instead of selecting randomly synthesized DNA oligonucleotides as in most SELEX studies, we utilized zebrafish genomic DNA to isolate fragments bound by Fezf2, an evolutionarily conserved gene critical for vertebrate forebrain development. This is, to our knowledge, the first time that SELEX is applied to a vertebrate genome. Computational analysis of bound genomic fragments predicted a core consensus binding site, which identified response elements that mediated Fezf2-dependent transcription both in vitro and in vivo. Fezf2-bound fragments were enriched for conserved sequences. Surprisingly, ?20% of these fragments overlapped well annotated protein-coding exons. Through loss of function, gain of function, and chromatin immunoprecipitation, we further identified and validated eomesa/tbr2 and lhx2b as biologically relevant target genes of Fezf2. Mutations in eomesa/tbr2 cause microcephaly in humans, whereas lhx2b is a critical regulator of cell fate and axonal targeting in the developing forebrain. These results demonstrate the feasibility of employing genomic SELEX to identify vertebrate transcription factor binding sites and target genes and reveal Fezf2 as a transcription activator and a candidate for evaluation in human microcephaly.
View details for DOI 10.1074/jbc.M111.236471
View details for Web of Science ID 000290785700036
View details for PubMedID 21471212
To examine whether attenuated Salmonella typhimurium (S typhimurium) could be used as an anti-cancer agent or a tumor-targeting vehicle for delivering shRNA-expressing pDNA into cancer cells in a mouse tumor model.Mouse bladder transitional cancer cell line (BTT-T739) expressing GFP was used, in which the GFP expression level served as an indicator of RNA interference (RNAi). BTT-T739-GFP tumor-bearing mice (4-6 weeks) were treated with S typhimurium carrying plasmids encoding shRNA against gfp or scrambled shRNA. The mRNA and protein expression levels of GFP were assessed 5 d after the bacteria administration, and the antitumor effects of S typhimurium were evaluated.In BTT-T739-GFP tumor-bearing mice, S typhimurium (1×10(9) cfu, po) preferentially accumulated within tumors for as long as 40 d, and formed a tumor-to-normal tissue ratio that exceeded 1000/1. S typhimurium carrying plasmids encoding shRNA against gfp inhibited the expression of GFP in tumor cells by 73.4%. Orally delivered S typhimurium significantly delayed tumor growth and prolonged the survival of tumor-bearing mice.This study demonstrates that attenuated S typhimurium can be used for both delivering shRNA-expressing vectors into tumor cells and eliciting RNAi, thus exerting anti-tumor activity, which may represent a new strategy for the treatment of solid tumors.
View details for DOI 10.1038/aps.2010.224
View details for Web of Science ID 000288003200013
View details for PubMedID 21372828
hTERT (human telomerase reverse transcriptase) plays a key role in the process of cell immortalization. Overexpression of hTERT has been implicated in 85% of malignant tumors and offers a specific target for cancer therapy. In this paper, we describe an effective approach using a single-chain variable fragment (scFv) intrabody derived from monoclonal hybridoma directed against hTERT to attenuate the immortalization of human uterine cervix and hepatoma cells. The scFv we constructed had a high affinity to hTERT, and specifically neutralized over 70% of telomere synthesis activity, thereby inhibiting the viability and proliferation of the cancer cells. Our results indicate that this anti-hTERT intrabody is a promising tool to target hTERT and intervene in the immortalization process of cancer cells.
View details for DOI 10.2478/s11658-009-0032-2
View details for Web of Science ID 000272968600003
View details for PubMedID 19774346
Uncovering the cis-regulatory logic of developmental enhancers is critical to understanding the role of non-coding DNA in development. However, it is cumbersome to identify functional motifs within enhancers, and thus few vertebrate enhancers have their core functional motifs revealed. Here we report a combined experimental and computational approach for discovering regulatory motifs in developmental enhancers. Making use of the zebrafish gene expression database, we computationally identified conserved non-coding elements (CNEs) likely to have a desired tissue-specificity based on the expression of nearby genes. Through a high throughput and robust enhancer assay, we tested the activity of approximately 100 such CNEs and efficiently uncovered developmental enhancers with desired spatial and temporal expression patterns in the zebrafish brain. Application of de novo motif prediction algorithms on a group of forebrain enhancers identified five top-ranked motifs, all of which were experimentally validated as critical for forebrain enhancer activity. These results demonstrate a systematic approach to discover important regulatory motifs in vertebrate developmental enhancers. Moreover, this dataset provides a useful resource for further dissection of vertebrate brain development and function.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.10.019
View details for Web of Science ID 000273948300027
View details for PubMedID 19850031
RNAi has been successfully applied in genomic research, and it also holds considerable promise as a therapeutic approach to suppress disease-causing gene expression. Here, we show that attenuated S. typhimurium were capable of delivering shRNA-expressing vectors to mammalian cells and inducing RNAi in vitro and in vivo. Upon oral administration, S. typhimurium carrying shRNA-expressing vectors targeting bcl2 induced significant gene silencing in murine melanoma cells that led to a remarkably delayed tumor growth and prolonged survival in the mouse model. These results suggest that bacteria mediated RNAi may be a new potent approach to the treatment of cancers.
View details for PubMedID 18059172
The immunogenicity of a synthetic multiepitope PCX3 antigen, which contains triple tandem repeats of five conserved epitopes from hepatitis C virus (HCV) polyprotein, was studied in BALB/c mice given three intraperitoneal injections of antigen with Freund's adjuvant. Both a strong antibody response and specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes were induced. The specific anti-PCX3 IgG was able to bind HCV particles from hepatitis C patient sera by incubation overnight. In particular, in transgenic mice with chimeric human livers, anti-PCX3 antibody was able to lower the viral load in two of five mice and to eliminate HCV infection in three of five mice by 2 wk after inoculation with HCV-positive serum from patients. These results indicated that the synthetic multiepitope PCX3 antigen elicits a potent humoral and cellular immune response against HCV.
View details for DOI 10.1089/vim.2006.0067
View details for Web of Science ID 000245710300017
View details for PubMedID 17425431
The unique profiles of gene expression dictate distinct cellular identity. How these profiles are established during development is not clear. Here we report that the mutant motionless (mot), identified in a genetic screen for mutations that affect neuronal development in zebrafish, displays deficits of monoaminergic neurons and cranial sensory ganglia, whereas expression of the pan-neuronal marker Hu is largely unperturbed; GABAergic and subsets of cranial motor neurons do not appear to be deficient. Positional cloning reveals that mot encodes Med12, a component of the evolutionarily conserved Mediator complex, whose in vivo function is not well understood in vertebrates. mot/med12 transcripts are enriched in the embryonic brain and appear distinct from two other Mediator components Med17 and Med21. Delivery of human med12 RNA into zebrafish restores normality to the mot mutant and, strikingly, leads to premature neuronal differentiation and an increased production of monoaminergic neuronal subtypes in WT. Further investigation reveals that mot/med12 is necessary to regulate, and when overexpressed is capable of increasing, the expression of distinct neuronal determination genes, including zash1a and lim1, and serves as an in vivo cofactor for Sox9 in this process. Together, our analyses reveal a regulatory role of Mot/Med12 in vertebrate neuronal development.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0605414103
View details for Web of Science ID 000242249400041
View details for PubMedID 17088561