rRNA biogenesis regulates mouse 2C-like state by 3D structure reorganization of peri-nucleolar heterochromatin

Nat Commun. 2021 Nov 9;12(1):6365. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-26576-2.


The nucleolus is the organelle for ribosome biogenesis and sensing various types of stress. However, its role in regulating stem cell fate remains unclear. Here, we present evidence that nucleolar stress induced by interfering rRNA biogenesis can drive the 2-cell stage embryo-like (2C-like) program and induce an expanded 2C-like cell population in mouse embryonic stem (mES) cells. Mechanistically, nucleolar integrity maintains normal liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) of the nucleolus and the formation of peri-nucleolar heterochromatin (PNH). Upon defects in rRNA biogenesis, the natural state of nucleolus LLPS is disrupted, causing dissociation of the NCL/TRIM28 complex from PNH and changes in epigenetic state and reorganization of the 3D structure of PNH, which leads to release of Dux, a 2C program transcription factor, from PNH to activate a 2C-like program. Correspondingly, embryos with rRNA biogenesis defect are unable to develop from 2-cell (2C) to 4-cell embryos, with delayed repression of 2C/ERV genes and a transcriptome skewed toward earlier cleavage embryo signatures. Our results highlight that rRNA-mediated nucleolar integrity and 3D structure reshaping of the PNH compartment regulates the fate transition of mES cells to 2C-like cells, and that rRNA biogenesis is a critical regulator during the 2-cell to 4-cell transition of murine pre-implantation embryo development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Nucleolus / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Heterochromatin / metabolism
  • Heterochromatin / ultrastructure*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • RNA, Ribosomal / biosynthesis*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Tripartite Motif-Containing Protein 28 / metabolism*


  • Dux4 protein, mouse
  • Heterochromatin
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • nucleolin
  • Trim28 protein, mouse
  • Tripartite Motif-Containing Protein 28