Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Wolf Reik

Research Summary

Epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation and histone marks are often relatively stable in differentiated and in adult tissues in the body, where they help to confer a stable cell identity on tissues. The process of epigenetic reprogramming, by which many of these marks are removed from DNA, is important for the function of embryonic stem cells and in reprogramming stem cells from adult tissue cells. When this erasure goes wrong there may be adverse consequences for healthy development and ageing, which can potentially extend over more than one generation.

​Our insights into the mechanisms of epigenetic reprogramming may help with developing better strategies for stem cell therapies and to combat age related decline. We have also recently initiated work on epigenetic regulation of social behaviours in insects, where we are interested in how patterning and regulation of DNA methylation in the brain is linked with the evolution of sociality.

Latest Publications

Single-Cell Landscape of Transcriptional Heterogeneity and Cell Fate Decisions during Mouse Early Gastrulation.
Mohammed H, Hernando-Herraez I, Savino A, Scialdone A, Macaulay I, Mulas C, Chandra T, Voet T, Dean W, Nichols J, Marioni JC, Reik W

The mouse inner cell mass (ICM) segregates into the epiblast and primitive endoderm (PrE) lineages coincident with implantation of the embryo. The epiblast subsequently undergoes considerable expansion of cell numbers prior to gastrulation. To investigate underlying regulatory principles, we performed systematic single-cell RNA sequencing (seq) of conceptuses from E3.5 to E6.5. The epiblast shows reactivation and subsequent inactivation of the X chromosome, with Zfp57 expression associated with reactivation and inactivation together with other candidate regulators. At E6.5, the transition from epiblast to primitive streak is linked with decreased expression of polycomb subunits, suggesting a key regulatory role. Notably, our analyses suggest elevated transcriptional noise at E3.5 and within the non-committed epiblast at E6.5, coinciding with exit from pluripotency. By contrast, E6.5 primitive streak cells became highly synchronized and exhibit a shortened G1 cell-cycle phase, consistent with accelerated proliferation. Our study systematically charts transcriptional noise and uncovers molecular processes associated with early lineage decisions.

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Cell reports, 20, 2211-1247, 1215-1228, 2017

PMID: 28768204

Epigenetic resetting of human pluripotency.
Guo G, von Meyenn F, Rostovskaya M, Clarke J, Dietmann S, Baker D, Sahakyan A, Myers S, Bertone P, Reik W, Plath K, Smith A

Much attention has focussed on the conversion of human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) to a more naïve developmental status. Here we provide a method for resetting via transient histone deacetylase inhibition. The protocol is effective across multiple PSC lines and can proceed without karyotype change. Reset cells can be expanded without feeders with a doubling time of around 24 h. WNT inhibition stabilises the resetting process. The transcriptome of reset cells diverges markedly from that of primed PSCs and shares features with human inner cell mass (ICM). Reset cells activate expression of primate-specific transposable elements. DNA methylation is globally reduced to a level equivalent to that in the ICM and is non-random, with gain of methylation at specific loci. Methylation imprints are mostly lost, however. Reset cells can be re-primed to undergo tri-lineage differentiation and germline specification. In female reset cells, appearance of biallelic X-linked gene transcription indicates reactivation of the silenced X chromosome. On reconversion to primed status, XIST-induced silencing restores monoallelic gene expression. The facile and robust conversion routine with accompanying data resources will enable widespread utilisation, interrogation, and refinement of candidate naïve cells.

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Development (Cambridge, England), 144, 1477-9129, 2748-2763, 2017

PMID: 28765214

Proliferation Drives Aging-Related Functional Decline in a Subpopulation of the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Compartment.
Kirschner K, Chandra T, Kiselev V, Flores-Santa Cruz D, Macaulay IC, Park HJ, Li J, Kent DG, Kumar R, Pask DC, Hamilton TL, Hemberg M, Reik W, Green AR

Aging of the hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) compartment is characterized by lineage bias and reduced stem cell function, the molecular basis of which is largely unknown. Using single-cell transcriptomics, we identified a distinct subpopulation of old HSCs carrying a p53 signature indicative of stem cell decline alongside pro-proliferative JAK/STAT signaling. To investigate the relationship between JAK/STAT and p53 signaling, we challenged HSCs with a constitutively active form of JAK2 (V617F) and observed an expansion of the p53-positive subpopulation in old mice. Our results reveal cellular heterogeneity in the onset of HSC aging and implicate a role for JAK2V617F-driven proliferation in the p53-mediated functional decline of old HSCs.

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Cell reports, 19, 2211-1247, 1503-1511, 2017

PMID: 28538171

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Keywords

cell memory
dna
epigenetics
methylation
reprogramming

Group Members

Latest Publications

Single-Cell Landscape of Transcriptional Heterogeneity and Cell Fate Decisions during Mouse Early Gastrulation.

Mohammed H, Hernando-Herraez I, Savino A

Cell reports
20 2211-1247:1215-1228 (2017)

PMID: 28768204

Epigenetic resetting of human pluripotency.

Guo G, von Meyenn F, Rostovskaya M

Development (Cambridge, England)
144 1477-9129:2748-2763 (2017)

PMID: 28765214

Proliferation Drives Aging-Related Functional Decline in a Subpopulation of the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Compartment.

Kirschner K, Chandra T, Kiselev V

Cell reports
19 2211-1247:1503-1511 (2017)

PMID: 28538171

A MILI-independent piRNA biogenesis pathway empowers partial germline reprogramming.

Vasiliauskaitė L, Vitsios D, Berrens RV

Nature structural & molecular biology
1545-9985: (2017)

PMID: 28530707

Multi-tissue DNA methylation age predictor in mouse.

Stubbs TM, Bonder MJ, Stark AK

Genome biology
18 1474-760X:68 (2017)

PMID: 28399939

DeepCpG: accurate prediction of single-cell DNA methylation states using deep learning.

Angermueller C, Lee HJ, Reik W

Genome biology
18 1474-760X:67 (2017)

PMID: 28395661

SC3: consensus clustering of single-cell RNA-seq data.

Kiselev VY, Kirschner K, Schaub MT

Nature methods
1548-7105: (2017)

PMID: 28346451

DNA methylation homeostasis in human and mouse development.

Iurlaro M, von Meyenn F, Reik W

Current opinion in genetics & development
43 1879-0380:101-109 (2017)

PMID: 28260631

The Ageing Brain: Effects on DNA Repair and DNA Methylation in Mice.

Langie SA, Cameron KM, Ficz G

Genes
8 : (2017)

PMID: 28218666

Tracking the embryonic stem cell transition from ground state pluripotency.

Kalkan T, Olova N, Roode M

Development (Cambridge, England)
1477-9129: (2017)

PMID: 28174249