The differentiation of mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells is controlled by the interaction of multiple signaling pathways, typically mediated by post-translational protein modifications. The addition of O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) to serine and threonine residues of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins is one such modification (O-GlcNAcylation), whose function in ES cells is only now beginning to be elucidated. Here we demonstrate that the specific inhibition of O-GlcNAc hydrolase (Oga) causes increased levels of protein O-GlcNAcylation and impairs differentiation of mouse ES cells both in serum-free monolayer and in embryoid bodies (EBs). Use of reporter cell lines demonstrates that Oga inhibition leads to a reduction in the number of Sox1-expressing neural progenitors generated following induction of neural differentiation, as well as maintained expression of the ES cell marker Oct4 (Pou5f1). In EBs expression of mesodermal and endodermal markers is also delayed. However, the transition of naive cells to primed pluripotency indicated by Rex1 (Zfp42), Nanog, Esrrb and Dppa3 downregulation and Fgf5 upregulation remains unchanged. Finally, we demonstrate that increased O-GlcNAcylation results in upregulation of genes normally epigenetically silenced in ES cells, supporting the emerging role for this protein modification in the regulation of histone modifications and DNA methylation.
- Embryonic stem cells
- Cell differentiation
- Post-translational modification
- Signal transduction
- OLIGONUCLEOTIDE MICROARRAYS