Loss of PRC2 subunits primes lineage choice during exit of pluripotency

Nat Commun. 2021 Nov 30;12(1):6985. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-27314-4.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Embryoid Bodies
  • Embryonic Development / genetics*
  • Embryonic Development / physiology*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Gene Silencing
  • Germ Layers
  • Histones
  • Lymphocytes, Null
  • Mice
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 / genetics*
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Transcriptome


  • Histones
  • Jarid2 protein, mouse
  • Mtf2 protein, mouse
  • histone H3 trimethyl Lys4
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2