Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

Mga safeguards embryonic stem cells from acquiring extraembryonic endoderm fates

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Science Advances  20 Jan 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 4, eabe5689
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe5689


Polycomb group (PcG) proteins form multiprotein complexes that affect stem cell identity and fate decisions by still largely unexplored mechanisms. Here, by performing a CRISPR-based loss-of-function screen in embryonic stem cells (ESCs), we identify PcG gene Mga involved in the repression of endodermal transcription factor Gata6. We report that deletion of Mga results in peri-implantation embryonic lethality in mice. We further demonstrate that Mga-null ESCs exhibit impaired self-renewal and spontaneous differentiation to primitive endoderm (PE). Our data support a model in which Mga might serve as a scaffold for PRC1.6 assembly and guide this multimeric complex to specific genomic targets including genes that encode endodermal factors Gata4, Gata6, and Sox17. Our findings uncover an unexpected function of Mga in ESCs, where it functions as a gatekeeper to prevent ESCs from entering into the PE lineage by directly repressing expression of a set of endoderm differentiation master genes.

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