Embryonic stem cell-derived hemangioblasts remain epigenetically plastic and require PRC1 to prevent neural gene expression.

12 Feb 2019

Many lineage-specific developmental regulator genes are transcriptionally primed in embryonic stem (ES) cells; RNA Pol(II) is bound at their promoters but is prevented from productive elongation by the activity of polycomb repressive complexes (PRC) 1 and 2. This epigenetically poised state is thought to enable ES cells to rapidly execute multiple differentiation programs and is recognized by a simultaneous enrichment for trimethylation of lysine 4 and trimethylation of lysine 27 of histone H3 (bivalent chromatin) across promoter regions. Here we show that the chromatin profile of this important cohort of genes is progressively modified as ES cells differentiate toward blood-forming precursors. Surprisingly however, neural specifying genes, such as Nkx2-2, Nkx2-9, and Sox1, remain bivalent and primed even in committed hemangioblasts, as conditional deletion of PRC1 results in overt and inappropriate expression of neural genes in hemangioblasts. These data reinforce the importance of PRC1 for normal hematopoietic differentiation and reveal an unexpected epigenetic plasticity of mesoderm-committed hemangioblasts.