Pereira CF, Piccolo FM, Tsubouchi T, Sauer S, Ryan NK, Bruno L, Landeira D, Santos J, Banito A, Gil J, Koseki H, Merkenschlager M, Fisher AG
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are pluripotent, self-renewing, and have the ability to reprogram differentiated cell types to pluripotency upon cellular fusion. Polycomb-group (PcG) proteins are important for restraining the inappropriate expression of lineage-specifying factors in ESCs. To investigate whether PcG proteins are required for establishing, rather than maintaining, the pluripotent state, we compared the ability of wild-type, PRC1-, and PRC2-depleted ESCs to reprogram human lymphocytes. We show that ESCs lacking either PRC1 or PRC2 are unable to successfully reprogram B cells toward pluripotency. This defect is a direct consequence of the lack of PcG activity because it could be efficiently rescued by reconstituting PRC2 activity in PRC2-deficient ESCs. Surprisingly, the failure of PRC2-deficient ESCs to reprogram somatic cells is functionally dominant, demonstrating a critical requirement for PcG proteins in the chromatin-remodeling events required for the direct conversion of differentiated cells toward pluripotency.