p53 inactivation unmasks histone methylation-independent and cytoplasmic-dependent WDR5 functions that drive self-renewal and differentiation of pluripotent stem cells


p53 alterations occur during culture of pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), but the significance of these events on epigenetic control of PSC fate determination remains poorly understood. Wdr5 deletion in p53-null (DKO) mouse ESCs (mESCs) leads to impaired self-renewal, defective retinal neuroectoderm differentiation, and de-repression of germ cell/meiosis (GCM)-specific genes. Re-introduction of a WDR5 mutant with defective H3K4 methylation activity into DKO ESCs restored self-renewal and suppressed GCM gene expression but failed to induce retinal neuroectoderm differentiation. Mechanistically, mutant WDR5 targets chromatin that is largely devoid of H3K4me3 and regulates gene expression in p53-null mESCs. Furthermore, MAX and WDR5 co-target lineage-specifying chromatin and regulate chromatin accessibility of GCM-related genes. Importantly, MAX and WDR5 are core subunits of a non-canonical polycomb repressor complex 1 responsible for gene silencing. This function, together with canonical, pro-transcriptional WDR5-dependent MLL complex H3K4 methyltransferase activity, highlight how WDR5 mediates crosstalk between transcription and repression during mESC fate choice.

Stem Cell Reports