The Journal of biological chemistry

Sumoylation of Krüppel-like factor 4 inhibits pluripotency induction but promotes adipocyte differentiation.

PMID 23515309


Ectopic expression of transcription factors has been shown to reprogram somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. It remains largely unexplored how this process is regulated by post-translational modifications. Several reprogramming factors possess conserved sumoylation sites, so we investigated whether and how this modification regulates reprogramming of fibroblasts into iPS cells. Substitution of the sole sumoylation site of the Krüppel-like factor (KLF4), a well known reprogramming factor, promoted iPS cell formation. In comparison, much smaller effects on reprogramming were observed for sumoylation-deficient mutants of SOX2 and OCT4, two other classical reprogramming factors. We also analyzed KLF2, a KLF4 homolog and a member of the KLF family of transcription factors with a known role in reprogramming. KLF2 was sumoylated at two conserved neighboring motifs, but substitution of the key lysine residues only stimulated reprogramming slightly. KLF5 is another KLF member with an established link to embryonic stem cell pluripotency. Interestingly, although it was much more efficiently sumoylated than either KLF2 or KLF4, KLF5 was inactive in reprogramming, and its sumoylation was not responsible for this deficiency. Furthermore, sumoylation of KLF4 but not KLF2 or KLF5 stimulated adipocyte differentiation. These results thus demonstrate the importance KLF4 sumoylation in regulating pluripotency and adipocyte differentiation.