Chemical Pretreatment Activated a Plastic State Amenable to Direct Lineage Reprogramming

Front Cell Dev Biol. 2022 Mar 25;10:865038. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2022.865038. eCollection 2022.


Somatic cells can be chemically reprogrammed into a pluripotent stem cell (CiPSC) state, mediated by an extraembryonic endoderm- (XEN-) like state. We found that the chemical cocktail applied in CiPSC generation initially activated a plastic state in mouse fibroblasts before transitioning into XEN-like cells. The plastic state was characterized by broadly activated expression of development-associated transcription factors (TFs), such as Sox17, Ascl1, Tbx3, and Nkx6-1, with a more accessible chromatin state indicating an enhanced capability of cell fate conversion. Intriguingly, introducing such a plastic state remarkably improved the efficiency of chemical reprogramming from fibroblasts to functional neuron-like cells with electrophysiological activity or beating skeletal muscles. Furthermore, the generation of chemically induced neuron-like cells or skeletal muscles from mouse fibroblasts was independent of the intermediate XEN-like state or the pluripotency state. In summary, our findings revealed a plastic chemically activated multi-lineage priming (CaMP) state at the onset of chemical reprogramming. This state enhanced the cells' potential to adapt to other cell fates. It provides a general approach to empowering chemical reprogramming methods to obtain functional cell types bypassing inducing pluripotent stem cells.

Keywords: cell fate transition; cell plasticity; chemical reprogramming; chromatin accessibility; direct reprogramming.