Nucleosome dynamics of human iPSC during neural differentiation

EMBO Rep. 2019 Jun;20(6):e46960. doi: 10.15252/embr.201846960. Epub 2019 Apr 29.


Nucleosome positioning is important for neurodevelopment, and genes mediating chromatin remodelling are strongly associated with human neurodevelopmental disorders. To investigate changes in nucleosome positioning during neural differentiation, we generate genome-wide nucleosome maps from an undifferentiated human-induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) line and after its differentiation to the neural progenitor cell (NPC) stage. We find that nearly 3% of nucleosomes are highly positioned in NPC, but significantly, there are eightfold fewer positioned nucleosomes in pluripotent cells, indicating increased positioning during cell differentiation. Positioned nucleosomes do not strongly correlate with active chromatin marks or gene transcription. Unexpectedly, we find a small population of nucleosomes that occupy similar positions in pluripotent and neural progenitor cells and are found at binding sites of the key gene regulators NRSF/REST and CTCF Remarkably, the presence of these nucleosomes appears to be independent of the associated regulatory complexes. Together, these results present a scenario in human cells, where positioned nucleosomes are sparse and dynamic, but may act to alter gene expression at a distance via the structural conformation at sites of chromatin regulation.

Keywords: chromatin; human iPSC; neural differentiation; nucleosome positioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Transcription Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Nucleosomes
  • Transcription Factors