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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 24;109(17):6596-601. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1117031109. Epub 2012 Apr 9.

Members of the NODE (Nanog and Oct4-associated deacetylase) complex and SOX-2 promote the initiation of a natural cellular reprogramming event in vivo.

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Development and Stem Cells Programme, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Unité Mixte de Recherche 7104, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U964, Université de Strasbourg, 67404 Illkirch CU Strasbourg, France.


Differentiated cells can be forced to change identity, either to directly adopt another differentiated identity or to revert to a pluripotent state. Direct reprogramming events can also occur naturally. We recently characterized such an event in Caenorhabditis elegans, in which a rectal cell switches to a neuronal cell. Here we have used this single-cell paradigm to investigate the molecular requirements of direct cell-type conversion, with a focus on the early steps. Our genetic analyses revealed the requirement of sem-4/Sall, egl-27/Mta, and ceh-6/Oct, members of the NODE complex recently identified in embryonic stem (ES) cells, and of the OCT4 partner sox-2, for the initiation of this natural direct reprogramming event. These four factors have been shown to individually impact on ES cell pluripotency; however, whether they act together to control cellular potential during development remained an open question. We further found that, in addition to acting at the same time, these factors physically associate, suggesting that they could act together as a NODE-like complex during this in vivo process. Finally, we have elucidated the functional domains in EGL-27/MTA that mediate its reprogramming activity in this system and have found that modulation of the posterior HOX protein EGL-5 is a downstream event to allow the initiation of Y identity change. Our data reveal unique in vivo functions in a natural direct reprogramming event for these genes that impact on ES cells pluripotency and suggest that conserved nuclear events could be shared between different cell plasticity phenomena across phyla.

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