Stem cells and development

Xist deficiency and disorders of X-inactivation in rabbit embryonic stem cells can be rescued by transcription-factor-mediated conversion.

PMID 24805295


The deficiency of X-inactive specific transcript (XIST) on the inactive X chromosome affects the behavior of female human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), and further chromosomal erosion can occur with continued passaging of these cells. However, X chromosome instability has not been identified in other species. In the present study, we investigated three female rabbit ESC (rbESC) lines and found that two of them expressed Xist normally and obtained both Xist RNA coating and H3K27me3 foci, thus defined as Xi(Xist)Xa. Interestingly, the third female rbESC line lacked Xist expression during ESC maintenance and differentiation. This line showed H3K27me3 foci but no Xist RNA coating in the early passages and was thus defined as Xi(w/oXist)Xa. Similar to Xi(w/oXist)Xa hESCs or hiPSCs, Xi(w/oXist)Xa rbESCs lose H3K27me3 and undergo Xi erosion (Xe) with passaging. Moreover, Xist-deficient rbESCs also exhibit impaired differentiation ability and upregulation of cancer-related genes. By overexpressing OCT4, SOX2, KLF4, and c-MYC in Xist-deficient rbESCs under optimized culture conditions, we successfully obtained mouse ESC-like (mESC-like) cells. The mESC-like rbESCs displayed dome-shaped colony morphology, activation of the LIF/STAT3-dependent pathway, and conversion of disordered X chromosome. Importantly, the defective differentiation potential was also greatly improved. Our data demonstrate that variations in X chromosome inactivation occur in early passage of rbESCs; thus, Xi disorders are conserved across species and are reversible using the proper epigenetic reprogramming and culture conditions. These findings may be very useful for future efforts toward deriving fully pluripotent rbESCs or rabbit iPSCs (rbiPSCs).

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