Co-repressor CBFA2T2 regulates pluripotency and germline development

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Abstract

Developmental specification of germ cells lies at the heart of inheritance, as germ cells contain all of the genetic and epigenetic information transmitted between generations. The critical developmental event distinguishing germline from somatic lineages is the differentiation of primordial germ cells (PGCs)1,2, precursors of sex-specific gametes that produce an entire organism upon fertilization. Germ cells toggle between uni- and pluripotent states as they exhibit their own ‘latent’ form of pluripotency. For example, PGCs express a number of transcription factors in common with embryonic stem (ES) cells, including OCT4 (encoded byPou5f1), SOX2, NANOG and PRDM14 (refs2,3,4). A biochemical mechanism by which these transcription factors converge on chromatin to produce the dramatic rearrangements underlying ES-cell- and PGC-specific transcriptional programs remains poorly understood. Here we identify a novel co-repressor protein, CBFA2T2, that regulates pluripotency and germline specification in mice.Cbfa2t2−/− mice display severe defects in PGC maturation and epigenetic reprogramming. CBFA2T2 forms a biochemical complex with PRDM14, a germline-specific transcription factor. Mechanistically, CBFA2T2 oligomerizes to form a scaffold upon which PRDM14 and OCT4 are stabilized on chromatin. Thus, in contrast to the traditional ‘passenger’ role of a co-repressor, CBFA2T2 functions synergistically with transcription factors at the crossroads of the fundamental developmental plasticity between uni- and pluripotency.

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