Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) deficient for microRNAs (miRNAs), such as Dgcr8-/- or Dicer-/- embryonic stem cells (ESCs), contain no mature miRNA and cannot differentiate into somatic cells. How miRNA deficiency causes differentiation defects remains poorly understood. Here, we report that miR-302 is sufficient to enable neural differentiation of differentiation-incompetent Dgcr8-/- ESCs. Our data showed that miR-302 directly suppresses the tumor suppressor p53, which is modestly upregulated in Dgcr8-/- ESCs and serves as a barrier restricting neural differentiation. We demonstrated that direct inactivation of p53 by SV40 large T antigen, a short hairpin RNA against Trp53, or genetic ablation of Trp53 in Dgcr8-/- PSCs enables neural differentiation, while activation of p53 by the MDM2 inhibitor nutlin-3a in wild-type ESCs inhibits neural differentiation. Together, we demonstrate that a major function of miRNAs in neural differentiation is suppression of p53 and that modest activation of p53 blocks neural differentiation of miRNA-deficient PSCs.
Keywords: Dgcr8; apoptosis; differentiation; miR-302; microRNA; neural differentiation; nutlin-3a; p53; pluripotent stem cells.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.