Zdzieblo D, Li X, Lin Q, Zenke M, Illich DJ, Becker M, Müller AM
Polycomb group (PcG) proteins comprise evolutionary conserved factors with essential functions for embryonic development and adult stem cells. PcG proteins constitute two main multiprotein polycomb repressive complexes (PRC1 and PRC2) that operate in a hierarchical manner to silence gene transcription. Functionally distinct PRC1 complexes are defined by Polycomb group RING finger protein (Pcgf) paralogs. So far, six Pcgf paralogs (Pcgf1-6) have been identified as defining components of different PCR1 type complexes. Paralog-specific functions are not well understood. Here we show that Pcgf6 is the only Pcgf paralog with high expression in undifferentiated ESCs. Upon differentiation Pcgf6 expression declines. Following Pcgf6 kockdown (KD) in ESCs the expression of pluripotency genes decreased, while mesodermal- and spermatogenesis-specific genes were de-repressed. Concomitantly with the elevated expression of mesodermal lineage markers, Pcgf6 KD ESCs showed increased hemangioblastic and hematopoietic activities upon differentiation suggesting a function of Pcgf6 in repressing mesodermal-specific lineage genes. Consistant with a role in pluripotency, Pcgf6 replaced Sox2 in the generation of germline-competent iPS cells. Further, Pcgf6 KD in MEFs reduced the formation of ESC-like colonies in OSKM-driven reprogramming. Together, these analyses indicate that Pcgf6 is non-redundantly involved in maintaining the pluripotent nature of ESCs and it functions in iPS reprogramming. Stem Cells 2014.