Chemical reprogramming provides a powerful platform for exploring the molecular dynamics that lead to pluripotency. Although previous studies have uncovered an intermediate extraembryonic endoderm (XEN)-like state during this process, the molecular underpinnings of pluripotency acquisition remain largely undefined. Here, we profile 36,199 single-cell transcriptomes at multiple time points throughout a highly efficient chemical reprogramming system using RNA-sequencing and reconstruct their progression trajectories. Through identifying sequential molecular events, we reveal that the dynamic early embryonic-like programs are key aspects of successful reprogramming from XEN-like state to pluripotency, including the concomitant transcriptomic signatures of two-cell (2C) embryonic-like and early pluripotency programs and the epigenetic signature of notable genome-wide DNA demethylation. Moreover, via enhancing the 2C-like program by fine-tuning chemical treatment, the reprogramming process is remarkably accelerated. Collectively, our findings offer a high-resolution dissection of cell fate dynamics during chemical reprogramming and shed light on mechanistic insights into the nature of induced pluripotency.
Keywords: 2C-like program; CiPSC; XEN-like cell; Zscan4; chemical reprogramming; early embryonic-like programs; genome-wide hypomethylation; pluripotency; reprogramming trajectory; single-cell RNA-seq.
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