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Establishment and maintenance of X-chromosome inactivation in human cells

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Ana Maria Fraga
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Doctoral Thesis
Press: São Paulo.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Instituto de Biociências (IBIOC/SB)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Lygia da Veiga Pereira Carramaschi; Anamaria Aranha Camargo; Angela Maria Vianna Morgante
Advisor: Lygia da Veiga Pereira Carramaschi

In female mammals, one of the X chromosomes is inactivated to achieve dosage compensation between males and females. The X chromosome inactivation (XCI) occurs early during embryogenesis and is characterized by the acquisition of heterochromatic features on the inactive X (Xi), which are maintained during all the subsequent cell divisions. Embryonic stem cells are the most suitable cells to study the establishment of XCI. They are obtained from the inner cell mass (ICM) of blastocysts, and can represent a developing female embryo, possessing two active X-chromosomes; when differentiated, these cells recapitulate XCI in vitro, and thus one can identify XCI regulators and factors involved. The derivation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in 1998 offered new possibilities to study XCI, since most of the mechanistic studies of XCI have so far been investigated in the mouse model system. Traditionally, maintenance of XCI in humans has been addressed in somatic cell hybrids or transformed cells; however, they do not represent a natural cellular context. The main goals of the present work were to verify the potential of hESCs as models of XCI, and also to study the function of three important factors in XCI maintenance in immortalized human cells. DNMT1 (DNA-methyltransferase 1), SMCHD1 (a cohesin/condensin protein family member) and the XIST gene (a non-coding RNA which triggers XCI and promotes X heterochromatin formation on the future Xi) were selected, as they are key factors in XCI maintenance in the mouse. Until now four hESCs lines were derived in our lab. Their characterization showed that, in spite of been undifferentiated, the female hESCs have already undergone XCI. Our data suggest that, under the actual culture conditions, hESCs are not good models to study XCI, and it is also possible that X inactivation confers selective advantage to hESCs. Knockdown by RNA interference was used to study the roles of three genes in XCI maintenance. We could not efficiently knockdown XIST or SMCHD1. However, the DNMT1 silencing was substantial, and led to the reactivation of MAOA, an X-linked gene subjected to XCI. Although the effect of DNMT1 silencing was restricted to MAOA, our data suggest that there are different epigenetic hierarchies to control the expression of the genes subjected to XCI in human cells. (AU)

FAPESP's process: 08/00058-0 - Human embryonic stem cells as a model for the study of X chromosome inactivation
Grantee:Ana Maria Fraga
Support Opportunities: Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate