Small Molecules Modulate Chromatin Accessibility to Promote NEUROG2-Mediated Fibroblast-to-Neuron Reprogramming




Smith, Derek Kurtis

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The activity of pro-neural signaling molecules and transcription factors is sufficient to induce the transdifferentiation of lineage-restricted fibroblasts into functional neurons; however, a mechanistic model of the immediate-early events that catalyze this conversion has not been well defined. We utilized a high-efficiency reprogramming system of NEUROG2, forskolin (F), and dorsomorphin (D) to characterize the genetic and epigenetic events that initiate an acquisition of neuronal identity in fetal human fibroblasts. NEUROG2 immediately activates a neurogenic program, but is only sufficient to impart a functional identity in the presence of FD. These small molecules promote NEUROG2 and CREB1 co-transcription, induce SOX4 expression, and promote SOX4-dependent chromatin remodeling. Genome-wide occupancy analysis revealed that SOX4 targets numerous SWI/SNF complex subunits and co-binds with NEUROG2 to enhance the expression of diverse neurogenic factors. The overexpression of SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling factors or treatment with small molecules that modify chromatin accessibility enhanced NEUROG2-mediated neuronal reprogramming of adult human skin fibroblasts. This work represents the first comprehensive mechanism for the immediate events that catalyze neuronal transdifferentiation.

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