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Stem Cells Dev. 2011 Sep;20(9):1601-14. doi: 10.1089/scd.2010.0281. Epub 2011 Mar 17.

Paracrine and epigenetic control of trophectoderm differentiation from human embryonic stem cells: the role of bone morphogenic protein 4 and histone deacetylases.

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Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, Magee Women's Hospital of UPMC, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Our understanding of paracrine and epigenetic control of trophectoderm (TE) differentiation is limited by available models of preimplantation human development. Simple, defined media for selective TE differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) were developed, enabling mechanistic studies of early placental development. Paracrine requirements of preimplantation human development were evaluated with hESCs by measuring lineage-specific transcription factor expression levels in single cells and morphological transformation in response to selected paracrine and epigenetic modulators. Bone morphogenic protein 4 (BMP4) addition to feeder-free pluripotent stem cells on matrigel frequently formed CDX2-positive TE. However, BMP4 or activin A inhibition alone also produced a mix of mesoderm and extraembryonic endoderm under these conditions. Further, BMP4 failed to form TE from adherent hESC maintained in standard feeder-dependent monolayers. Given that the efficiency and selectivity of BMP4-induced TE depended on medium components, we developed a basal medium containing insulin and heparin. In this medium, BMP4 induction of TE was dose dependent and with activin A inhibition by SB431542 (SB), approached 100% of cells. This paracrine stimulation of pluripotent cells transformed colony morphology from a cuboidal to squamous epithelium quantitatively on day 3, and produced significant multinucleated syncytiotrophoblasts by day 8. Addition of trichostatin A, a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, reduced HDAC3, histone H3K9 methylation, and slowed differentiation in a dose-dependent manner. Modulators of BMP4- or HDAC-dependent signaling might adversely influence the timing and viability of early blastocyst developed in vitro. Since blastocyst development is synchronized to uterine receptivity, epigenetic regulators of TE differentiation might adversely affect implantation in vivo.

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