An in-depth proteomic comparison of human-induced pluripotent stem cells, and their parent fibroblast cells, with embryonic stem cells shows that the reprogramming process comprehensively remodels protein expression levels, creating cells that closely resemble natural stem cells.
We present here a large proteomic characterization of human embryonic stem cells, human-induced pluripotent stem cells and their parental fibroblasts cell lines.Overall, 97.8% of the 2683 quantified proteins in four experiments showed no significant differences in abundance between hESC and hiPSC highlighting the high similarity of these pluripotent cell lines.In total, 58 proteins were found significantly differentially expressed between hiPSCs and hESCs. The observed low overlap of these proteins with previous transcriptomic studies suggests that those differences do no reflect a recurrent molecular signature.
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are capable of self-renewal and multi-lineage differentiation. However, the use of hESCs for clinical treatment entails ethical issues as they are derived from human embryos. Recently, reprogramming of somatic cells to an embryonic stem cell-like state, named induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), was achieved through ectopic expression of defined factors. In addition to their clinical potential, hiPSCs represent a unique tool to develop cellular models for human diseases as well. Although current functional assays (e.g., tetraploid complementation) have confirmed the pluripotency of hiPSCs, there might still be significant differences (e.g., differentiation potential) when compared with their natural hESCs counterparts. Consequently, an extensive molecular characterization to address differences and similarities between these two pluripotent cell lines seems to be a prerequisite before any clinical application is conducted. Despite that great efforts, mainly at the genomic levels, have been made to address how similar hESCs and hiPSCs are, the definite answer to this fundamental question is currently still debated. Direct assessment of protein levels has yet to be incorporated into these integrative systems-level analyses. Protein levels are tuned by intricate mechanisms of gene expression regulation and it has recently been documented that mRNA and protein levels poorly correlate in mouse ESCs. Here, we use in-depth quantitative proteomics to gain insights into the differences and similarities in the protein content of two hiPS cell lines, their precursor IMR90 and 4Skin fibroblast cell lines and one hES cell line, providing novel molecular signatures that may assist in filling a gap in the understanding of pluripotency.
To study the degree of similarity, at the protein level, between hiPSCs and hESCs, four MS-based proteomic experiments were designed that use our in-house developed triplex dimethyl labeling chemistry followed by extensive fractionation by strong cation exchange (SCX) chromatography to reduce the sample complexity. High-resolution LC-MS/MS with dedicated fragmentation schemes (i.e., electron transfer dissociation, collision-induced dissociation and higher-energy collision dissociation) was subsequently used to maximize peptide identification rates. A total of 348 LC-MS/MS analyses (including technical and biological replicates) were performed. We confidently identified 1 593 446 peptide spectrum matches (peptide FDR<1%) corresponding to 10 628 unique protein groups (protein FDR∼4%). Using the extracted ion chromatograms, we also estimated the absolute abundance of the proteins within the samples spanning six orders of magnitude. To the best of our knowledge, the coverage obtained in this study represents the largest achieved by any proteomics screen on pluripotent cells.
Most importantly, our results indicate that the reprogramming process remodeled the proteome of both fibroblast cell lines to a profile that closely resembles the pluripotent hESCs proteome: 97.8% of the quantified proteins (2638 proteins in all four experiments) showed nonsignificant changes. Nevertheless, a small fraction of 58 proteins, mainly related to metabolism, antigen processing and cell adhesion, was found significantly regulated between hiPSCs and hESCs. A comparison of the regulated proteins to previously published transcriptomic studies showed a low overlap, highlighting the emerging notion that differences between both pluripotent cell lines rather reflect experimental conditions than a recurrent molecular signature. On the other side, the inclusion of the two parental fibroblast cell lines in our analysis allowed us to study changes in the proteome at both the starting and end points of the reprogramming process. As expected, the vast majority of the proteins (73.4%) showed differential expression between the parental fibroblasts and the reprogrammed pluripotent cells.
To find out if the differences observed in our study were a consequence of transcriptional or translational regulation, we performed paired genome-wide gene expression analyses on the same six samples that were used for the proteomic profiling. Overall, we observed a good correlation between mRNA and protein levels (r∼0.7). These results further authenticated the proteomic measurements and implied a high degree of control at the transcriptional level. Nevertheless, numerous genes were found uncorrelated highlighting the necessity of complementing transcriptomic-based approaches with proteomics.
Assessing relevant molecular differences between human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) is important, given that such differences may impact their potential therapeutic use. Controversy surrounds recent gene expression studies comparing hiPSCs and hESCs. Here, we present an in-depth quantitative mass spectrometry-based analysis of hESCs, two different hiPSCs and their precursor fibroblast cell lines. Our comparisons confirmed the high similarity of hESCs and hiPSCS at the proteome level as 97.8% of the proteins were found unchanged. Nevertheless, a small group of 58 proteins, mainly related to metabolism, antigen processing and cell adhesion, was found significantly differentially expressed between hiPSCs and hESCs. A comparison of the regulated proteins with previously published transcriptomic studies showed a low overlap, highlighting the emerging notion that differences between both pluripotent cell lines rather reflect experimental conditions than a recurrent molecular signature.