Analysis of the transcription factors and their regulatory roles during a step-by-step differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells into hepatocyte-like cells†
We investigated the human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) during a sequential in vitro step-by-step differentiation into hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs) using nanoCAGE, a method for promoters, transcription factors, and transcriptome analysis. Specific gene clusters reflected the different steps of the hepatic differentiation. The proliferation step was characterized by a typical cell cycle and DNA replication. The hepatic endoderm and the HLC steps were marked by a common signature including cell interactions with extracellular matrix (ECM), lipoproteins and hepatic biomarkers (such as albumin and alpha-fetoprotein). The specific HLC profile was characterized by important transcription factors such as HIF1A, JUN, MAF, KLF6, BMP4 and with a larger expression of genes related to Wnt signaling, extracellular matrix, lipid metabolism, urea cycle, drugs, and solute transporters. HLC profile was also characterized by the activation of upstream regulators such as HNF1A, MEIS2, NFIX, WRNIP1, SP4, TAL1. Their regulatory networks highlighted HNF4a as a bridge and linked them to important processes such as EMT–MET transitions, ECM remodeling and liver development pathways (HNF3, PPARA signaling, iron metabolism) along the different steps of differentiation.