Human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) utility is limited by variations in the ability of these cells to undergo lineage-specific differentiation. We have undertaken a transcriptional comparison of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines and hiPSC lines and have shown that hiPSCs are inferior in their ability to undergo neuroectodermal differentiation. Among the differentially expressed candidates between hESCs and hiPSCs, we identified a mitochondrial protein, CHCHD2, whose expression seems to correlate with neuroectodermal differentiation potential of pluripotent stem cells. We provide evidence that hiPSC variability with respect to CHCHD2 expression and differentiation potential is caused by clonal variation during the reprogramming process and that CHCHD2 primes neuroectodermal differentiation of hESCs and hiPSCs by binding and sequestering SMAD4 to the mitochondria, resulting in suppression of the activity of the TGFβ signaling pathway. Using CHCHD2 as a marker for assessing and comparing the hiPSC clonal and/or line differentiation potential provides a tool for large scale differentiation and hiPSC banking studies.
© 2016 Zhu et al.