The mechanisms that maintain the functional heterogeneity of stem cells, which generates diverse differentiated cell types required for organogenesis, are not understood. Here, we report that Trithorax (Trx) actively maintains the heterogeneity of neural stem cells (neuroblasts) in the developing Drosophila larval brain. trx mutant type II neuroblasts gradually adopt a type I neuroblast functional identity, losing the competence to generate intermediate neural progenitors (INPs) and directly generating differentiated cells. Trx regulates a type II neuroblast functional identity in part by maintaining chromatin in the buttonhead (btd) locus in an active state through the histone methyltransferase activity of the SET1/MLL complex. Consistently, btd is necessary and sufficient for eliciting a type II neuroblast functional identity. Furthermore, over-expression of btd restores the competence to generate INPs in trx mutant type II neuroblasts. Thus, Trx instructs a type II neuroblast functional identity by epigenetically promoting Btd expression, thereby maintaining neuroblast functional heterogeneity.
- Marianne E Bronner, California Institute of Technology, United States
© 2014, Komori et al.
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In the developing fruit fly brain, a protein called Trithorax increases the number of neural cells produced from a single stem cell, in part by regulating the transcription of the target genes buttonhead and pointed.
Dyskeratosis congenita (DC) is a rare genetic disorder characterized by deficiencies in telomere maintenance leading to very short telomeres and the premature onset of certain age-related diseases, including pulmonary fibrosis (PF). PF is thought to derive from epithelial failure, particularly that of type II alveolar epithelial (AT2) cells, which are highly dependent on Wnt signaling during development and adult regeneration. We use human iPSC-derived AT2 (iAT2) cells to model how short telomeres affect AT2 cells. Cultured DC mutant iAT2 cells accumulate shortened, uncapped telomeres and manifest defects in the growth of alveolospheres, hallmarks of senescence, and apparent defects in Wnt signaling. The GSK3 inhibitor, CHIR99021, which mimics the output of canonical Wnt signaling, enhances telomerase activity and rescues the defects. These findings support further investigation of Wnt agonists as potential therapies for DC related pathologies.