The pluripotent ground state is defined as a basal state free of epigenetic restrictions, which influence lineage specification. While naive embryonic stem cells (ESCs) can be maintained in a hypomethylated state with open chromatin when grown using two small-molecule inhibitors (2i)/leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), in contrast to serum/LIF-grown ESCs that resemble early post-implantation embryos, broader features of the ground-state pluripotent epigenome are not well understood. We identified epigenetic features of mouse ESCs cultured using 2i/LIF or serum/LIF by proteomic profiling of chromatin-associated complexes and histone modifications. Polycomb-repressive complex 2 (PRC2) and its product H3K27me3 are highly abundant in 2i/LIF ESCs, and H3K27me3 is distributed genome-wide in a CpG-dependent fashion. Consistently, PRC2-deficient ESCs showed increased DNA methylation at sites normally occupied by H3K27me3 and increased H4 acetylation. Inhibiting DNA methylation in PRC2-deficient ESCs did not affect their viability or transcriptome. Our findings suggest a unique H3K27me3 configuration protects naive ESCs from lineage priming, and they reveal widespread epigenetic crosstalk in ground-state pluripotency.
Keywords: H3K27me3; chromatin profiling; embryonic stem cells; epigenetics; ground-state pluripotency; histone modifications.
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