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

Distinct Molecular Trajectories Converge to Induce Naive Pluripotency.
Stuart HT, Stirparo GG, Lohoff T, Bates LE, Kinoshita M, Lim CY, Sousa EJ, Maskalenka K, Radzisheuskaya A, Malcolm AA, Alves MRP, Lloyd RL, Nestorowa S, Humphreys P, Mansfield W, Reik W, Bertone P, Nichols J, Göttgens B, Silva JCR

Understanding how cell identity transitions occur and whether there are multiple paths between the same beginning and end states are questions of wide interest. Here we show that acquisition of naive pluripotency can follow transcriptionally and mechanistically distinct routes. Starting from post-implantation epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs), one route advances through a mesodermal state prior to naive pluripotency induction, whereas another transiently resembles the early inner cell mass and correspondingly gains greater developmental potency. These routes utilize distinct signaling networks and transcription factors but subsequently converge on the same naive endpoint, showing surprising flexibility in mechanisms underlying identity transitions and suggesting that naive pluripotency is a multidimensional attractor state. These route differences are reconciled by precise expression of Oct4 as a unifying, essential, and sufficient feature. We propose that fine-tuned regulation of this "transition factor" underpins multidimensional access to naive pluripotency, offering a conceptual framework for understanding cell identity transitions.

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Cell stem cell, , 1875-9777, , 2019

PMID: 31422912

Screening for genes that accelerate the epigenetic aging clock in humans reveals a role for the H3K36 methyltransferase NSD1.
Martin-Herranz DE, Aref-Eshghi E, Bonder MJ, Stubbs TM, Choufani S, Weksberg R, Stegle O, Sadikovic B, Reik W, Thornton JM

Epigenetic clocks are mathematical models that predict the biological age of an individual using DNA methylation data and have emerged in the last few years as the most accurate biomarkers of the aging process. However, little is known about the molecular mechanisms that control the rate of such clocks. Here, we have examined the human epigenetic clock in patients with a variety of developmental disorders, harboring mutations in proteins of the epigenetic machinery.

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Genome biology, 20, 1474-760X, 146, 2019

PMID: 31409373

Establishment of porcine and human expanded potential stem cells.
Gao X, Nowak-Imialek M, Chen X, Chen D, Herrmann D, Ruan D, Chen ACH, Eckersley-Maslin MA, Ahmad S, Lee YL, Kobayashi T, Ryan D, Zhong J, Zhu J, Wu J, Lan G, Petkov S, Yang J, Antunes L, Campos LS, Fu B, Wang S, Yong Y, Wang X, Xue SG, Ge L, Liu Z, Huang Y, Nie T, Li P, Wu D, Pei D, Zhang Y, Lu L, Yang F, Kimber SJ, Reik W, Zou X, Shang Z, Lai L, Surani A, Tam PPL, Ahmed A, Yeung WSB, Teichmann SA, Niemann H, Liu P

We recently derived mouse expanded potential stem cells (EPSCs) from individual blastomeres by inhibiting the critical molecular pathways that predispose their differentiation. EPSCs had enriched molecular signatures of blastomeres and possessed developmental potency for all embryonic and extra-embryonic cell lineages. Here, we report the derivation of porcine EPSCs, which express key pluripotency genes, are genetically stable, permit genome editing, differentiate to derivatives of the three germ layers in chimeras and produce primordial germ cell-like cells in vitro. Under similar conditions, human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells can be converted, or somatic cells directly reprogrammed, to EPSCs that display the molecular and functional attributes reminiscent of porcine EPSCs. Importantly, trophoblast stem-cell-like cells can be generated from both human and porcine EPSCs. Our pathway-inhibition paradigm thus opens an avenue for generating mammalian pluripotent stem cells, and EPSCs present a unique cellular platform for translational research in biotechnology and regenerative medicine.

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Nature cell biology, 21, 1476-4679, 687-699, 2019

PMID: 31160711

Group Members

Latest Publications

Distinct Molecular Trajectories Converge to Induce Naive Pluripotency.

Stuart HT, Stirparo GG, Lohoff T

Cell stem cell
1875-9777: (2019)

PMID: 31422912

Screening for genes that accelerate the epigenetic aging clock in humans reveals a role for the H3K36 methyltransferase NSD1.

Martin-Herranz DE, Aref-Eshghi E, Bonder MJ

Genome biology
20 1474-760X:146 (2019)

PMID: 31409373

Establishment of porcine and human expanded potential stem cells.

Gao X, Nowak-Imialek M, Chen X

Nature cell biology
21 1476-4679:687-699 (2019)

PMID: 31160711

TET3 prevents terminal differentiation of adult NSCs by a non-catalytic action at Snrpn.

Montalbán-Loro R, Lozano-Ureña A, Ito M

Nature communications
10 2041-1723:1726 (2019)

PMID: 30979904

A single-cell molecular map of mouse gastrulation and early organogenesis.

Pijuan-Sala B, Griffiths JA, Guibentif C

Nature
1476-4687: (2019)

PMID: 30787436

Dppa2 and Dppa4 directly regulate the Dux-driven zygotic transcriptional program.

Eckersley-Maslin M, Alda-Catalinas C, Blotenburg M

Genes & development
33 1549-5477:194-208 (2019)

PMID: 30692203

Transcriptional Heterogeneity in Naive and Primed Human Pluripotent Stem Cells at Single-Cell Resolution.

Messmer T, von Meyenn F, Savino A

Cell reports
26 2211-1247:815-824.e4 (2019)

PMID: 30673604

The non-canonical SMC protein SmcHD1 antagonises TAD formation and compartmentalisation on the inactive X chromosome.

Gdula MR, Nesterova TB, Pintacuda G

Nature communications
10 2041-1723:30 (2019)

PMID: 30604745

Hepatic gene body hypermethylation is a shared epigenetic signature of murine longevity.

Hahn O, Stubbs TM, Reik W

PLoS genetics
14 1553-7404:e1007766 (2018)

PMID: 30462643

Single cell transcriptome analysis of human, marmoset and mouse embryos reveals common and divergent features of preimplantation development.

Boroviak T, Stirparo GG, Dietmann S

Development (Cambridge, England)
145 1477-9129: (2018)

PMID: 30413530

5-Formylcytosine organizes nucleosomes and forms Schiff base interactions with histones in mouse embryonic stem cells.

Raiber EA, Portella G, Martínez Cuesta S

Nature chemistry
1755-4349: (2018)

PMID: 30349137