Pioneer Factor NeuroD1 Rearranges Transcriptional and Epigenetic Profiles to Execute Microglia-Neuron Conversion

Neuron. 2019 Feb 6;101(3):472-485.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.12.010. Epub 2019 Jan 9.


Minimal sets of transcription factors can directly reprogram somatic cells into neurons. However, epigenetic remodeling during neuronal reprogramming has not been well reconciled with transcriptional regulation. Here we show that NeuroD1 achieves direct neuronal conversion from mouse microglia both in vitro and in vivo. Exogenous NeuroD1 initially occupies closed chromatin regions associated with bivalent trimethylation of histone H3 at lysine 4 (H3K4me3) and H3K27me3 marks in microglia to induce neuronal gene expression. These regions are resolved to a monovalent H3K4me3 mark at later stages of reprogramming to establish the neuronal identity. Furthermore, the transcriptional repressors Scrt1 and Meis2 are induced as NeuroD1 target genes, resulting in a decrease in the expression of microglial genes. In parallel, the microglial epigenetic signature in promoter and enhancer regions is erased. These findings reveal NeuroD1 pioneering activity accompanied by global epigenetic remodeling for two sequential events: onset of neuronal property acquisition and loss of the microglial identity during reprogramming.

Keywords: ChIP-seq; DNA methylation; RNA-seq; WGBS; direct reprogramming; epigenetics; histone modification; microglia; neuron; pioneer factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Reprogramming*
  • Corpus Striatum / cytology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Histone Code
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Microglia / cytology*
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Histones
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Mrg1 protein, mouse
  • Neurod1 protein, mouse