Single-molecule tracking of Nanog and Oct4 in living mouse embryonic stem cells uncovers a feedback mechanism of pluripotency maintenance

News 2023/08/23

Nanog and Oct4 are core transcription factors that form part of a gene regulatory network to regulate hundreds of target genes for pluripotency maintenance in mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). To understand their function in the pluripotency maintenance, we visualised and quantified the dynamics of single molecules of Nanog and Oct4 in a mouse ESCs during pluripotency loss. Interestingly, Nanog interacted longer with its target loci upon reduced expression or at the onset of differentiation, suggesting a feedback mechanism to maintain the pluripotent state. The expression level and interaction time of Nanog and Oct4 correlate with their fluctuation and interaction frequency, respectively, which in turn depend on the ESC differentiation status. The DNA viscoelasticity near the Oct4 target locus remained flexible during differentiation, supporting its role either in chromatin opening or a preferred binding to uncondensed chromatin regions. Based on these results, we propose a new negative feedback mechanism for pluripotency maintenance via the DNA condensation state-dependent interplay of Nanog and Oct4.

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