Pasque V, Radzisheuskaya A, Gillich A, Halley-Stott RP, Panamarova M, Zernicka-Goetz M, Surani MA, Silva JC.
How cell fate becomes restricted during somatic cell differentiation is a long lasting question in biology. Epigenetic mechanisms not present in pluripotent cells and acquired during embryonic development are expected to stabilise the differentiated state of somatic cells and thereby restrict their ability to convert to another fate. The histone variant macroH2A acts as a component of an epigenetic multilayer that heritably maintains the silent X chromosome and has been shown to restrict tumour development. Here we show that macroH2A marks the differentiated cell state during mouse embryogenesis. MacroH2A.1 was found to be present at low levels upon the establishment of pluripotency in the inner cell mass and epiblast, but it was highly enriched in the trophectoderm and differentiated somatic cells later in mouse development. Chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed that macroH2A.1 is incorporated in the chromatin of regulatory regions of pluripotency genes in somatic cells such as mouse embryonic fibroblasts and adult neural stem cells, but not in embryonic stem cells. Removal of macroH2A.1, macroH2A.2 or both increased the efficiency of induced pluripotency up to 25 fold. The obtained induced pluripotent stem cells reactivated pluripotency genes, silenced retroviral transgenes and contributed to chimeras. In addition, overexpression of macroH2A isoforms prevented efficient reprogramming of epiblast stem cells to naïve pluripotency. In summary, our study identifies for the first time a link between an epigenetic mark and cell fate restriction during somatic cell differentiation, which helps to maintain cell identity and antagonises induction of a pluripotent stem cell state.