A mechanism by which adult cells revert to stem cells has been identified by a team of scientists at the Wellcome Trust – MRC Stem Cell Institute, at the University of Cambridge. This work describes how Nanog, a protein that had previously been shown to be essential for this process, works together with the epigenetic regulators Tet1 and Tet2 to reprogram adult cells into a pluripotent state. The reprogramming process had been originally described by the Japanese scientist Shynia Yamanaka, to whom and for which the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology has been awarded in October 2012.
“Reprogramming is a well established process, which was previously proven to be dependent on Nanog, but we still did not know exactly how Nanog worked to achieve this,” commented Dr. Yael Costa, first author of the paper. “Now and for the first time, our work demonstrates that the molecular mechanism by which Nanog reverts adult cells into pluripotent stem cells is by working together with two proteins that alter DNA marks. This in turn makes genes change from off to on,” added Dr. Costa. It was known that changes to these DNA marks would lead to changes in the expression of genes, but only now this has been associated with reprogramming and Nanog, specifically as a consequence of its associations with Tet1 and Tet2.
Illustration: Tet1, in a Nanog dependent manner, enhances induced pluripotency. –Yael Costa.
Stem Cell Institute News Release (02/12/13)
Abstract (Nature; (02/10/13))