Gene Regulatory Network Analysis and Engineering Directs Development and Vascularization of Multilineage Human Liver Organoids

Cell Syst. 2021 Jan 20;12(1):41-55.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.cels.2020.11.002. Epub 2020 Dec 7.

Abstract

Pluripotent stem cell (PSC)-derived organoids have emerged as novel multicellular models of human tissue development but display immature phenotypes, aberrant tissue fates, and a limited subset of cells. Here, we demonstrate that integrated analysis and engineering of gene regulatory networks (GRNs) in PSC-derived multilineage human liver organoids direct maturation and vascular morphogenesis in vitro. Overexpression of PROX1 and ATF5, combined with targeted CRISPR-based transcriptional activation of endogenous CYP3A4, reprograms tissue GRNs and improves native liver functions, such as FXR signaling, CYP3A4 enzymatic activity, and stromal cell reactivity. The engineered tissues possess superior liver identity when compared with other PSC-derived liver organoids and show the presence of hepatocyte, biliary, endothelial, and stellate-like cell populations in single-cell RNA-seq analysis. Finally, they show hepatic functions when studied in vivo. Collectively, our approach provides an experimental framework to direct organogenesis in vitro by systematically probing molecular pathways and transcriptional networks that promote tissue development.

Keywords: CRISPR; Cas9; gene circuit; gene regulatory network; genetic engineering; induced pluripotent stem cells; liver; maturation; organoids; synthetic biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't