From iPSC to induced beta-cells, iN and iCM: dedifferentiation vs direct reprogramming

The success of inducing pluripotency in primary fibroblasts and other cells with a combination of only a small number of transcription factors suggested that fully differentiated cells might change fate following similar treatments. Since the demonstration of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), at least three examples have been published where 3 cell type-specific factors were selected from a pool of 10-20 candidates that, when expressed from viral vectors, could induce beta-cells, neurons, or cardiomyocytes.

Induced beta-cells [1]: Ngn3, Pdx1, and Mafa, adenovirus injected to in vivo targets

Induced neurons (iN) [2]: Ascl1, Brn2, and Myt1l, lentivirus infecting mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEF) or tail tip fibroblasts (TTF)

Induced cardiomyocytes (iCM) [3]: Gata4, Mef2c, and Tbx5, lentivirus infecting cardiac fibroblasts or TTF

In all 3 cases, the change of fate seemed to be via direct conversion, without passing through a progenitor cell fate before further differentiation. Like iPSC reprogramming, direct reprogramming also requires a transient supply of inducing factors. Unlike generating iPSCs, the percentage of cells getting reprogrammed is much higher in direct reprogramming, ~20% in the cases of iN and iCM vs 0.1-1% in iPSC. It is likely that a transient, inductive expression of essential factors jump-starts endogenous factors to establish cell fate specific programs; it has also been illustrated that chromatin remodeling through DNA methylation, histone modifications, etc. accompanies the direct reprogramming events.

The requirement of the full complement of inducting factors may vary depending on how close the original cell type is to the new cell type. iPSCs are typically created by using 4 genes, but can be created with just Sox2, Oct3/4 particularly when the cells to be reprogrammed are less differentiated, such as tissue progenitor cells. Instead of a more “complete” direct reprogramming from unrelated cells to iN and iCM, the induced beta-cells come from exocrine cells, which share parental cells with beta-cells.

Looking into the near future, it should be expected that cell type-specific gene expression profiles are being re-examined or created right this moment to look for candidate gene pools specific to other cell types, starting from those with cell therapy relevance. Lentivirus, retrovirus, adenovirus, or baculovirus for mammalian expression are being constructed to carry them into fibroblasts or cells that are close to the end product of direct reprogramming. In a few months, many of these inducing gene-expressing viruses will become shelf products as high titer viruses from suppliers like Allele Biotech, incorporating tools in viral packaging, fluorescent proteins, and polycistronic gene expression systems.

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1. Zhou, Q., J. Brown, A. Kanarek, J. Rajagopal, and D.A. Melton, In vivo reprogramming of adult pancreatic exocrine cells to beta-cells. Nature, 2008. 455(7213): p. 627-32.
2. Vierbuchen, T., A. Ostermeier, Z.P. Pang, Y. Kokubu, T.C. Sudhof, and M. Wernig, Direct conversion of fibroblasts to functional neurons by defined factors. Nature. 463(7284): p. 1035-41.
3. Ieda, M., J.D. Fu, P. Delgado-Olguin, V. Vedantham, Y. Hayashi, B.G. Bruneau, and D. Srivastava, Direct reprogramming of fibroblasts into functional cardiomyocytes by defined factors. Cell. 142(3): p. 375-86.

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Thursday, August 19th, 2010 iPSCs and other stem cells No Comments