Knockdown of CDK2AP1 in human embryonic stem cells reduces the threshold of differentiation.
Alsayegh KN1,2, Sheridan SD3, Iyer S4, Rao RR5
1 Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, United States of America.
2 King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
3 Infectious Diseases Section, King Abdullah International Medical Research Center National Guard Health Affairs, P.O. Box 22490, Mail Code 1515, Riyadh, 11426, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
4 Department of Biological Sciences, Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, United States of America.
5 Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, United States of America.
Year of Publication:
Recent studies have suggested a role for the Cyclin Dependent Kinase-2 Associated Protein 1 (CDK2AP1) in stem cell differentiation and self-renewal. In studies with mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) derived from generated mice embryos with targeted deletion of the Cdk2ap1 gene, CDK2AP1 was shown to be required for epigenetic silencing of Oct4 during differentiation, with deletion resulting in persistent self-renewal and reduced differentiation potential. Differentiation capacity was restored in these cells following the introduction of a non-phosphorylatible form of the retinoblastoma protein (pRb) or exogenous Cdk2ap1. In this study, we investigated the role of CDK2AP1 in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Using a shRNA to reduce its expression in hESCs, we found that CDK2AP1 knockdown resulted in a significant reduction in the expression of the pluripotency genes, OCT4 and NANOG. We also found that CDK2AP1 knockdown increased the number of embryoid bodies (EBs) formed when differentiation was induced. In addition, the generated EBs had significantly higher expression of markers of all three germ layers, indicating that CDK2AP1 knockdown enhanced differentiation. CDK2AP1 knockdown also resulted in reduced proliferation and reduced the percentage of cells in the S phase and increased cells in the G2/M phase of the cell cycle. Further investigation revealed that a higher level of p53 protein was present in the CDK2AP1 knockdown hESCs. In hESCs in which p53 and CDK2AP1 were simultaneously downregulated, OCT4 and NANOG expression was not affected and percentage of cells in the S phase of the cell cycle was not reduced. Taken together, our results indicate that the knockdown of CDK2AP1 in hESCs results in increased p53 and enhances differentiation and favors it over a self-renewal fate.