Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Hematopoietic Cells Maintain Core Epigenetic Machinery of the Polycomb Group/Trithorax Group Complexes Distinctly from Functional Adult Hematopoietic Stem Cells
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Hematopoietic cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have a number of potential utilities, including the modeling of hematological disorders in vitro, whereas the use for cell replacement therapies has proved to be a loftier goal. This is due to the failure of differentiated hematopoietic cells, derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), to functionally recapitulate the in vivo properties of bona fide adult hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs). To better understand the limitations of differentiation programming at the molecular level, we have utilized differential gene expression analysis of highly purified cells that are enriched for hematopoietic repopulating activity across embryonic, fetal, and adult human samples, including in vivo explants of human HSPCs 8-weeks post-transplantation. We reveal that hESC-derived hematopoietic progenitor cells (eHPCs) fail to express critical transcription factors which are known to govern self-renewal and myeloid/lymphoid development and instead retain the expression of Polycomb Group (PcG) and Trithorax Group (TrxG) factors which are more prevalent in embryonic cell types that include EZH1 and ASH1L, respectively. These molecular profiles indicate that the differential expression of the core epigenetic machinery comprising PcGs/TrxGs in eHPCs may serve as previously unexplored molecular targets that direct hematopoietic differentiation of PSCs toward functional HSPCs in humans.
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