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Cell Cycle. 2011 May 1;10(9):1488-98. Epub 2011 May 1.

Epigenetic regulation of Nanog expression by Ezh2 in pluripotent stem cells.

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Tumour Suppression Group, Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), Madrid, Spain.


Nanog levels in pluripotent stem cells are heterogeneous and this is thought to reflect two different and interchangeable cell states, respectively poised to self-renew (Nanog-high subpopulation) or to differentiate (Nanog-low subpopulation). However, little is known about the mechanisms responsible for this pattern of Nanog expression. Here, we have examined the impact of the histone methyltransferase Ezh2 on pluripotent stem cells and on Nanog expression. Interestingly, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells lacking Ezh2 presented higher levels of Nanog due to a relative expansion of the Nanog-high subpopulation, and this was associated to severe defects in differentiation. Moreover, we found that the Nanog promoter in embryonic stem (ES) cells and iPS cells coexists in two alternative univalent chromatin configurations, either H3K4me3 or H3K27me3, the latter being dependent on the presence of functional Ezh2. Finally, the levels of expression of Ezh2, as well as the amount of H3K27me3 present at the Nanog promoter, were higher in the Nanog-low subpopulation of ES/iPS cells. Together, these data indicate that Ezh2 directly regulates the epigenetic status of the Nanog promoter affecting the balance of Nanog expression in pluripotent stem cells and, therefore, the equilibrium between self-renewal and differentiation.

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