Naive mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) are in a metastable state and fluctuate between inner cell mass- and epiblast-like phenotypes. Here, we show transient activation of the BMP-SMAD signaling pathway in mESCs containing a BMP-SMAD responsive reporter transgene. Activation of the BMP-SMAD reporter transgene in naive mESCs correlated with lower levels of genomic DNA methylation, high expression of 5-methylcytosine hydroxylases Tet1/2 and low levels of DNA methyltransferases Dnmt3a/b. Moreover, naive mESCs, in which the BMP-SMAD reporter transgene was activated, showed higher resistance to differentiation. Using double Smad1;Smad5 knockout mESCs, we showed that BMP-SMAD signaling is dispensable for self-renewal in both naive and ground state. These mutant mESCs were still pluripotent, but they exhibited higher levels of DNA methylation than their wild-type counterparts and had a higher propensity to differentiate. We showed that BMP-SMAD signaling modulates lineage priming in mESCs, by transiently regulating the enzymatic machinery responsible for DNA methylation.
Gomes Fernandes, M., Dries, R., Roost, M. S., Semrau, S., De Melo Bernardo, A., Davis, R. P., … Chuva De Sousa Lopes, S. M. (2016). BMP-SMAD Signaling Regulates Lineage Priming, but Is Dispensable for Self-Renewal in Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells. Stem Cell Reports, 6(1), 85–94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stemcr.2015.11.012