Enhancers are sections of DNA that control the expression of nearby genes. By comparing these two closely related types of pluripotent stem cells (embryonic and epiblast), Corradin and Factor identified a new class of enhancers, which they refer to as seed enhancers. Unlike most enhancers, which are only active in specific times or places in the body, seed enhancers play roles from before birth to adulthood.
They are present, but dormant, in the early mouse embryonic stem cell population. In the more developed mouse epiblast stem cell population, they become the primary enhancers of their associated genes. As the cells mature into functional adult tissues, the seed enhancers grow into super enhancers. Super enhancers are large regions that contain many enhancers and control the most important genes in each cell type.
"These seed enhancers have wide-ranging potential to impact the understanding of development and disease," said Stanton Gerson, MD, Asa & Patricia Shiverick and Jane Shiverick (Tripp) Professor of Hematological Oncology and Director of the National Center for Regenerative Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. "In the stem cell field, this understanding should rapidly enhance the ability to generate clinically useful cell types for stem cell-based regenerative medicine."
"Our next step is to understand if mis-regulation of these seed enhancers might play a role in human diseases," Tesar said. "The genes controlled by seed enhancers are powerful ones, and it's possible that aberrations could contribute to things like heart disease or neurodegenerative disorders."
Scacheri added, "It is also clear that cancer can be driven by changes in enhancers, and we are interested in understanding the role of seed enhancers in cancer onset and progression."
|Contact: Jeannette Spalding|
Case Western Reserve University