van Mierlo G, Dirks RAM, De Clerck L, Brinkman AB, Huth M, Kloet SL, Saksouk N, Kroeze LI, Willems S, Farlik M, Bock C, Jansen JH, Deforce D, Vermeulen M, Déjardin J, Dhaenens M, Marks H
The pluripotent ground state is defined as a basal state free of epigenetic restrictions, which influence lineage specification. While naive embryonic stem cells (ESCs) can be maintained in a hypomethylated state with open chromatin when grown using two small-molecule inhibitors (2i)/leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), in contrast to serum/LIF-grown ESCs that resemble early post-implantation embryos, broader features of the ground-state pluripotent epigenome are not well understood. We identified epigenetic features of mouse ESCs cultured using 2i/LIF or serum/LIF by proteomic profiling of chromatin-associated complexes and histone modifications. Polycomb-repressive complex 2 (PRC2) and its product H3K27me3 are highly abundant in 2i/LIF ESCs, and H3K27me3 is distributed genome-wide in a CpG-dependent fashion. Consistently, PRC2-deficient ESCs showed increased DNA methylation at sites normally occupied by H3K27me3 and increased H4 acetylation. Inhibiting DNA methylation in PRC2-deficient ESCs did not affect their viability or transcriptome. Our findings suggest a unique H3K27me3 configuration protects naive ESCs from lineage priming, and they reveal widespread epigenetic crosstalk in ground-state pluripotency.