miR-302 Is Required for Timing of Neural Differentiation, Neural Tube Closure, and Embryonic Viability
The evolutionarily conserved miR-302 family of microRNAs is expressed during early mammalian embryonic development. Here, we report that deletion of miR-302a-d in mice results in a fully penetrant late embryonic lethal phenotype. Knockout embryos have an anterior neural tube closure defect associated with a thickened neuroepithelium. The neuroepithelium shows increased progenitor proliferation, decreased cell death, and precocious neuronal differentiation. mRNA profiling at multiple time points during neurulation uncovers a complex pattern of changing targets over time. Overexpression of one of these targets, Fgf15, in the neuroepithelium of the chick embryo induces precocious neuronal differentiation. Compound mutants between mir-302 and the related mir-290 locus have a synthetic lethal phenotype prior to neurulation. Our results show that mir-302 helps regulate neurulation by suppressing neural progenitor expansion and precocious differentiation. Furthermore, these results uncover redundant roles for mir-290 and mir-302 early in development.
Two miRNA Clusters Reveal Alternative Paths in Late-Stage Reprogramming
Ectopic expression of specific factors such as Oct4, Sox2, and Klf4 (OSK) is sufficient to reprogram somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). In this study, we examine the paths taken by cells during the reprogramming process by following the transcriptional activation of two pluripotent miRNA clusters (mir-290 and mir-302) in individual cells in vivo and in vitro with knockin reporters. During embryonic development and embryonic stem cell differentiation, all cells sequentially expressed mir-290 and mir-302. In contrast, during OSK- induced reprogramming, cells activated the miRNA loci in a stochastic, nonordered manner. However, the addition of Sall4 to the OSK cocktail led to a consistent reverse sequence of locus activation (mir-302 then mir-290) and increased reprogramming efficiency. These results demonstrate that cells can follow multiple paths during the late stages of reprogramming, and that the trajectory of any individual cell is strongly influenced by the combination of factors introduced.