Fedorov O et al.
Mammalian SWI/SNF [also called Brg/Brahma-associated factors (BAFs)] are evolutionarily conserved chromatin-remodeling complexes regulating gene transcription programs during development and stem cell differentiation. BAF complexes contain an ATP (adenosine 5'-triphosphate)-driven remodeling enzyme (either BRG1 or BRM) and multiple protein interaction domains including bromodomains, an evolutionary conserved acetyl lysine-dependent protein interaction motif that recruits transcriptional regulators to acetylated chromatin. We report a potent and cell active protein interaction inhibitor, PFI-3, that selectively binds to essential BAF bromodomains. The high specificity of PFI-3 was achieved on the basis of a novel binding mode of a salicylic acid head group that led to the replacement of water molecules typically maintained in other bromodomain inhibitor complexes. We show that exposure of embryonic stem cells to PFI-3 led to deprivation of stemness and deregulated lineage specification. Furthermore, differentiation of trophoblast stem cells in the presence of PFI-3 was markedly enhanced. The data present a key function of BAF bromodomains in stem cell maintenance and differentiation, introducing a novel versatile chemical probe for studies on acetylation-dependent cellular processes controlled by BAF remodeling complexes.