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Successful stem cell differentiation requires DNA compaction, study finds
Date:5/11/2012

linker histones and chromatin folding on stem cell differentiation, the researchers used embryonic stem cells that lacked three subtypes of linker histone H1 -- H1c, H1d and H1e -- which is the structural protein that facilitates the folding of chromatin into a higher-order structure. They found that the expression levels of these H1 subtypes increased during embryonic stem cell differentiation, and embryonic stem cells lacking these H1s resisted spontaneous differentiation for a prolonged time, showed impairment during embryoid body differentiation and were unsuccessful in forming a high-quality network of neural cells.

"This study has uncovered a new, regulatory function for histone H1, a protein known mostly for its role as a structural component of chromosomes," said Anthony Carter, who oversees epigenetics grants at NIGMS. "By showing that H1 plays a part in controlling genes that direct embryonic stem cell differentiation, the study expands our understanding of H1's function and offers valuable new insights into the cellular processes that induce stem cells to change into specific cell types."

During spontaneous differentiation, the majority of the H1 triple-knockout embryonic stem cells studied by the researchers retained a tightly packed colony structure typical of undifferentiated cells and expressed high levels of Oct4 for a prolonged time. Oct4 is a pluripotency gene that maintains an embryonic stem cell's ability to self-renew and must be suppressed to induce differentiation.

"H1 depletion impaired the suppression of the Oct4 and Nanog pluripotency genes, suggesting a novel mechanistic link by which H1 and chromatin compaction may mediate pluripotent stem cell differentiation by contributing to the epigenetic silencing of pluripotency genes," explained Fan. "While a significant reduction in H1 levels does not interfere with embryonic stem cell self-renewal, it appears to impair differentiation."

The researchers als
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Contact: Abby Robinson
abby@innovate.gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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