The first week of human pre-embryo development is characterized by the induction of totipotency and then pluripotency. The understanding of this delicate process will have far reaching implication for in vitro fertilization and regenerative medicine. Human mature MII oocytes and embryonic stem (ES) cells are both able to achieve the feat of cell reprogramming towards pluripotency, either by somatic cell nuclear transfer or by cell fusion, respectively. Comparison of the transcriptome of these two cell types may highlight genes that are involved in pluripotency initiation.
Based on a microarray compendium of 205 samples, we compared the gene expression profile of mature MII oocytes and human ES cells (hESC) to that of somatic tissues. We identified a common oocyte/hESC gene expression profile, which included a strong cell cycle signature, genes associated with pluripotency such as LIN28 and TDGF1, a large chromatin remodelling network (TOP2A, DNMT3B, JARID2, SMARCA5, CBX1, CBX5), 18 different zinc finger transcription factors, including ZNF84, and several still poorly annotated genes such as KLHL7, MRS2, or the Selenophosphate synthetase 1 (SEPHS1). Interestingly, a large set of genes was also found to code for proteins involved in the ubiquitination and proteasome pathway. Upon hESC differentiation into embryoid bodies, the transcription of this pathway declined. In vitro, we observed a selective sensitivity of hESC to the inhibition of the activity of the proteasome.
These results shed light on the gene networks that are concurrently overexpressed by the two human cell types with somatic cell reprogramming properties.