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Developmental Biology

Protocol for the Direct Conversion of Murine Embryonic Fibroblasts into Trophoblast Stem Cells

Published: July 25th, 2016



1Department of Developmental Pathology, Institute of Pathology, University of Bonn Medical School

Here we present a protocol for the direct conversion of murine embryonic fibroblasts into fully functional and stable trophoblast stem cells by ten day over-expression of Tfap2c, Gata3, Eomes and Ets2.

Trophoblast stem cells (TSCs) arise as a consequence of the first cell fate decision in mammalian development. They can be cultured in vitro, retaining the ability to self-renew and to differentiate into all subtypes of the trophoblast lineage, equivalent to the in vivo stem cell population giving rise to the fetal portion of the placenta. Therefore, TSCs offer a unique model to study placental development and embryonic versus extra-embryonic cell fate decision in vitro. From the blastocyst stage onwards, a distinct epigenetic barrier consisting of DNA methylation and histone modifications tightly separates both lineages. Here, we describe a protocol to fully overcome this lineage barrier by transient over-expression of trophoblast key regulators Tfap2c, Gata3, Eomes and Ets2 in murine embryonic fibroblasts. The induced trophoblast stem cells are able to self-renew and are almost identical to blastocyst derived trophoblast stem cells in terms of morphology, marker gene expression and methylation pattern. Functional in vitro and in vivo assays confirm that these cells are able to differentiate along the trophoblast lineage generating polyploid trophoblast giant cells and chimerizing the placenta when injected into blastocysts. The induction of trophoblast stem cells from somatic tissue opens new avenues to study genetic and epigenetic characteristics of this extra-embryonic lineage and offers the possibility to generate trophoblast stem cell lines without destroying the respective embryo.

Recently, a study comparing several approaches of mouse embryonic stem cell to trophoblast stem cells conversion has revealed that in all analyzed systems, lineage conversion remained incomplete. Instead of induced trophoblast stem cells (iTSCs) so called trophoblast stem cell-like cells have been generated retaining a memory of the cell fate of origin1. Here, we followed a different approach of iTSC generation. Similar to the direct induction of pluripotent stem cells from murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) 2, iTSCs have been directly converted from differentiated somatic tissue. First, we identified 12 candidate factors inducing TSC fate when ....

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All mouse experiments were conducted according to the German law of animal protection and in agreement with the approval of the local institutional animal care committees (Landesamt fuer Natur, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz, North Rhine-Westphalia [approval ID number: AZ 84-02.04.2013.A428]).

1. Media Preparation

  1. Prepare 293T medium: Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium (DMEM), 10% (v/v) FBS, L-glutamine (2 mM), sodium pyruvate (1 mM), penicillin/streptomycin (1x).
  2. Prepare.......

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On the dish where transgene expression of the 4F is activated, cells rapidly change morphology (compare Figure 2A and B). Around day 14 - 21 distinct transdifferentiated areas emerge (two examples are given in Figure 2B and C). These primary colonies lack typical TSC morphology; however once they are sub-cultured, characteristic epithelial morphology with tight edges and bright boundaries highly reminiscent of bona fide TSCs emerges (Figure 2D

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The 4 factor (Tfap2c, Gata3, Eomes, Ets2) based transdifferentiation protocol presented here offers a reliable method to generate faithfully converted iTSCs from mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Further, the method is also applicable for post-natal tail fibroblasts, although with a drop in efficiency compared to embryonic fibroblasts 3. In general, quality of primary fibroblasts is a critical factor of transdifferentiation outcome and care should be taken to use early passage cells (passage two to three).

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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Doxycycline hyclate Sigma-Aldrich D9891-10G Dissolve in sterile PBS, prepare 2 mg/ml stock solution. Store aliquots at -20°C
Chloroquine diphosphate salt  Sigma-Aldrich C6628-25G Prepare 25 mM stock solution in sterile cell culture grade water. Store aliquots at -20°C
Polybrene (Hexadimethrine bromide) Sigma-Aldrich 107689-10G Prepare 8 mg/ml stock solution in sterile cell culture grade water. Store aliquots at -20°C
human recombinant Fibroblast Growth Factor 4 ReliaTech 300-131L Dissolve in sterile 0.1% BSA in PBS, prepare 25 µg/ml stock solution. Store aliquots at -80°C
Heparin sodium salt Sigma-Aldrich H3149-10KU Prepare 1 mg/ml stock solution by dissolving in sterile PBS. Store aliquots at -80°C
ProFection Mammalian Transfection System Promega E1200
PBS, no calcium, no magnesium ThermoFisher Scientific 1419-094
DMEM (1x) + GlutaMAX ThermoFisher Scientific 31966-021
RPMI 1640, no glutamine ThermoFisher Scientific 31870-025
Advanced DMEM (1x) ThermoFisher Scientific 12491-015
Trypsin-EDTA (0.05%), phenol red ThermoFisher Scientific 25300-054
Poly-L-lysine Sigma-Aldrich P4707
Fetal bovine serum Hyclone SH30071.03IR
Surfactant-free cellulose acetate-membrane filter Corning 431220
Non-essential amino acids ThermoFisher Scientific 11140-035
Penicillin Streptomycin ThermoFisher Scientific 15140-122
Sodium Pyruvate  ThermoFisher Scientific 11360-039
L-glutamine  ThermoFisher Scientific 25030-24
2-Mercaptoethanol ThermoFisher Scientific 31350-010
Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), cell culture grade Panreac AppliChem GmbH A3672,0100
pLV-tetO-Tfap2c Addgene 70269
pLV-tetO-Gata3 Addgene 70270
pLV-tetO-Eomes Addgene 70271
pLV-tetO-Ets2 Addgene 70272
pLV-tetO-mCherry Addgene 70273
psPAX2 Addgene 12260
pMD2.G Addgene 12259
FUdeltaGW-rtTA  Addgene 19780
Mice B6.Cg-Gt(ROSA)26Sortm1(rtTA*M2)Jae/J 7 JAX Mice 6965
129S2SV Charles River 129

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