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Stem Cells. 2013 May;31(5):895-905. doi: 10.1002/stem.1323.

Dynamic migration and cell-cell interactions of early reprogramming revealed by high-resolution time-lapse imaging.

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Yale Stem Cell Center,Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Discovery of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of induced pluripotency has been hampered by its low efficiency and slow kinetics. Here, we report an experimental system with multicolor time-lapse microscopy that permits direct observation of pluripotency induction at single cell resolution, with temporal intervals as short as 5 minutes. Using granulocyte-monocyte progenitors as source cells, we visualized nascent pluripotent cells that emerge from a hematopoietic state. We engineered a suite of image processing and analysis software to annotate the behaviors of the reprogramming cells, which revealed the highly dynamic cell-cell interactions associated with early reprogramming. We observed frequent cell migration, which can lead to sister colonies, satellite colonies, and colonies of mixed genetic makeup. In addition, we discovered a previously unknown morphologically distinct two-cell intermediate of reprogramming, which occurs prior to other reprogramming landmarks. By directly visualizing the reprogramming process with E-cadherin inhibition, we demonstrate that E-cadherin is required for proper cellular interactions from an early stage of reprogramming, including the two-cell intermediate. The detailed cell-cell interactions revealed by this imaging platform shed light on previously unappreciated early reprogramming dynamics. This experimental system could serve as a powerful tool to dissect the complex mechanisms of early reprogramming by focusing on the relevant but rare cells with superb temporal and spatial resolution.

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