Kolundzic E, Ofenbauer A, Bulut SI, Uyar B, Baytek G, Sommermeier A, Seelk S, He M, Hirsekorn A, Vucicevic D, Akalin A, Diecke S, Lacadie SA, Tursun B
The chromatin regulator FACT (facilitates chromatin transcription) is essential for ensuring stable gene expression by promoting transcription. In a genetic screen using Caenorhabditis elegans, we identified that FACT maintains cell identities and acts as a barrier for transcription factor-mediated cell fate reprogramming. Strikingly, FACT's role as a barrier to cell fate conversion is conserved in humans as we show that FACT depletion enhances reprogramming of fibroblasts. Such activity is unexpected because FACT is known as a positive regulator of gene expression, and previously described reprogramming barriers typically repress gene expression. While FACT depletion in human fibroblasts results in decreased expression of many genes, a number of FACT-occupied genes, including reprogramming-promoting factors, show increased expression upon FACT depletion, suggesting a repressive function of FACT. Our findings identify FACT as a cellular reprogramming barrier in C. elegans and humans, revealing an evolutionarily conserved mechanism for cell fate protection.