Di Stefano B, Sardina JL, van Oevelen C, Collombet S, Kallin EM, Vicent GP, Lu J, Thieffry D, Beato M, Graf T
CCAAT/enhancer binding protein-α (C/EBPα) induces transdifferentiation of B cells into macrophages at high efficiencies and enhances reprogramming into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells when co-expressed with the transcription factors Oct4 (Pou5f1), Sox2, Klf4 and Myc (hereafter called OSKM). However, how C/EBPα accomplishes these effects is unclear. Here we find that in mouse primary B cells transient C/EBPα expression followed by OSKM activation induces a 100-fold increase in iPS cell reprogramming efficiency, involving 95% of the population. During this conversion, pluripotency and epithelial-mesenchymal transition genes become markedly upregulated, and 60% of the cells express Oct4 within 2 days. C/EBPα acts as a 'path-breaker' as it transiently makes the chromatin of pluripotency genes more accessible to DNase I. C/EBPα also induces the expression of the dioxygenase Tet2 and promotes its translocation to the nucleus where it binds to regulatory regions of pluripotency genes that become demethylated after OSKM induction. In line with these findings, overexpression of Tet2 enhances OSKM-induced B-cell reprogramming. Because the enzyme is also required for efficient C/EBPα-induced immune cell conversion, our data indicate that Tet2 provides a mechanistic link between iPS cell reprogramming and B-cell transdifferentiation. The rapid iPS reprogramming approach described here should help to fully elucidate the process and has potential clinical applications.