Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) is crucial for the coordinated expression of genes during early embryonic development, catalyzing histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation. Two distinct PRC2 complexes, PRC2.1 and PRC2.2, contain respectively MTF2 and JARID2 in embryonic stem cells (ESCs). In this study, we explored their roles in lineage specification and commitment, using single-cell transcriptomics and mouse embryoid bodies derived from Mtf2 and Jarid2 null ESCs. We observe that the loss of Mtf2 results in enhanced and faster differentiation towards cell fates from all germ layers, while the Jarid2 null cells are predominantly directed towards early differentiating precursors, with reduced efficiency towards mesendodermal lineages. These effects are caused by derepression of developmental regulators that are poised for activation in pluripotent cells and gain H3K4me3 at their promoters in the absence of PRC2 repression. Upon lineage commitment, the differentiation trajectories are relatively similar to those of wild-type cells. Together, our results uncover a major role for MTF2-containing PRC2.1 in balancing poised lineage-specific gene activation, whereas the contribution of JARID2-containing PRC2 is more selective in nature compared to MTF2. These data explain how PRC2 imposes thresholds for lineage choice during the exit of pluripotency.
© 2021. The Author(s).