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Developmental Biology

Reprogramming Mouse Embryonic Fibroblasts with Transcription Factors to Induce a Hemogenic Program

Published: December 16th, 2016



1Department of Developmental and Regenerative Biology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2The Graduate School of Biomedical Science, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 3Black Family Stem Cell Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 4Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra, 5Department of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

The protocol described here details the induction of a hemogenic program in mouse embryonic fibroblasts via overexpression of a minimal set of transcription factors. This technology may be translated to the human system to provide platforms for future study of hematopoiesis, hematologic disease, and hematopoietic stem cell transplant.

This protocol details the induction of a hemogenic program in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) via overexpression of transcription factors (TFs). We first designed a reporter screen using MEFs from human CD34-tTA/TetO-H2BGFP (34/H2BGFP) double transgenic mice. CD34+ cells from these mice label H2B histones with GFP, and cease labeling upon addition of doxycycline (DOX). MEFS were transduced with candidate TFs and then observed for the emergence of GFP+ cells that would indicate the acquisition of a hematopoietic or endothelial cell fate. Starting with 18 candidate TFs, and through a process of combinatorial elimination, we obtained a minimal set of factors that would induce the highest percentage of GFP+ cells. We found that Gata2, Gfi1b, and cFos were necessary and the addition of Etv6 provided the optimal induction. A series of gene expression analyses done at different time points during the reprogramming process revealed that these cells appeared to go through a precursor cell that underwent an endothelial to hematopoietic transition (EHT). As such, this reprogramming process mimics developmental hematopoiesis "in a dish," allowing study of hematopoiesis in vitro and a platform to identify the mechanisms that underlie this specification. This methodology also provides a framework for translation of this work to the human system in the hopes of generating an alternative source of patient-specific hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) for a number of applications in the treatment and study of hematologic diseases.

Hematopoiesis is a complex developmental process where hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) bud off hemogenic endothelium present in a variety of embryonic hematopoietic sites such as the Aorta-Gonad-Mesonephros and the placenta1,2. The inability to culture HSCs in vitro prevents the in depth analysis of this process as well as the clinical application of these studies. To circumvent this limitation, previous studies have attempted to derive HSCs de novo either via differentiation of pluripotent stem cells (PSCs)3, or induced plasticity in somatic cells and directed differentiation using reprogramming media4,5. These studi....

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Ethics statement: Mouse cell lines are derived following the animal care guidelines of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and should be done in compliance with any host institution.

1. Mouse Embryonic Fibroblast (MEF) Isolation of C57BL/6 Mice

  1. Set up timed mating13. Once a vaginal plug is visualized, consider this Day 0.5.
  2. Separate the plugged females on the plug date and check on them on Day 10-11 to confirm pregnancy.
  3. On Day 13.5-14.5 euthanize pregnant female.......

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Hematopoiesis is a complex developmental process that begins in various embryonic sites. Hemogenic endothelial cells reside in these sites and give rise to HSCs via cell budding23. This process currently cannot be reproduced by placing HSCs or hematopoietic precursors in culture, necessitating a methodology to somehow obtain these cells in vitro, either by HSPC expansion ex vivo or generation de novo. This protocol demonstrates our novel technology th.......

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Generating HSPCs de novo from easily attainable somatic cells offers a unique method to study hematopoiesis in vitro, and the opportunity to potentially apply this technology to the human system. This translation would generate a new tool to study human hematologic disease in a dish, as well as provide drug testing platforms and gene targeting opportunities to treat numerous disorders with novel therapeutics or HSC transplants. In the field, recent studies have expanded on the ability to generate HSPCs .......

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This work was supported by an NHLBI grant to K.M. and I.R.L. (1RO1HL119404). Carlos-Filipe Pereira was the recipient of a Revson Senior Biomedical Fellowship. We gratefully acknowledge the Mount Sinai hESC/iPSC Shared Resource Facility and S. D'Souza for assistance with materials and protocols. We also thank the Mount Sinai Flow Cytometry, Genomics, and Mouse facilities.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
DMEM Invitrogen 11965-092
0.45uM filters Corning 430625
Amicon Ultra centrifugal filters Millipore UFC900324
Penicillin/Streptomycin Invitrogen 15140-122
L-Glutamine Invitrogen 25030-081
FBS Gemini's Benchmark 100-106
PBS Life Technologies 14190-144
18G needles BD 305195
20G needles BD 305175
25G needles BD 305125
Collagenase Type I Sigma C0130-100MG
TrypLE Express Invitrogen 12605-010
Myelocult media Stem Cell Technologies M5300
SCF R & D Systems 455-MC
Flt3L R & D Systems 427-FL
IL-3 R & D Systems 403-ML
IL-6 R & D Systems 406-ML
TPO R & D Systems 488-TO
Doxycycline Sigma D9891-1G
Polybrene (hexadimethrine bromide) Sigma AL-118
Durapore 0.65uM membrane filters Millipore DVPP14250
Methylcellulose media Stem Cell Technologies Methocult M3434
Hydrocortisone Stem Cell Technologies 07904
C57BL/6 mice The Jackson Laboratory 000664
Gelatin Sigma G-1890 100g
pFUW-tetO Addgene Plasmid #20321
Gata2 Origene MR226728
Gfi1b Origene MR204861
cFos  Addgene Plasmid #19259
Etv6 Origene MR207053
psPAX2 Addgene Plasmid #12260
pMD2.G Addgene Plasmid #12259
CaCl2 Sigma C5670-100g
FUW-M2rtTA Addgene Plasmid #20342
35 x 10 mm culture dishes Thermo Scientific 171099

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