Sox2 is one of the core transcription factors maintaining the embryonic stem cells (ES) pluripotency and, also indispensable for cellular reprogramming.
However, limited data is available about the DNA methylation of pluripotency genes during lineage-specific differentiations.
This study investigated the DNA methylation of Sox2 regulatory region 2 (SRR2) during directed differentiation of mouse ES into neural lineage.
ES cells were first grown to form embryoid bodies in suspension which were then dissociated, and cultured in defined medium to promote neural differentiation.
Typical neuronal morphology together with the up-regulation of Pax6, neuroepithelial stem cell intermediate filament and β-tubulin III and, down-regulation of pluripotency genes Oct4, Nanog and Sox2 showed the existence of neural phenotype in cells undergoing differentiation.
Three CpGs in the core enhancer region of neural-specific SRR2 were individually investigated by direct DNA sequencing post-bisulfite treatment and, found to be unmethylated in differentiated cells at time-points chosen for analysis. This analysis does not limit the possibility of methylation at other CpG sites than those profiled here and/or transient methylation.
Hence, similar analyses exploring the DNA methylation at other regions of the Sox2 gene could unravel the onset and transitions of epigenetic signatures influencing the outcome of differentiation pathways and neural development.
The data presented here shows that in vitro neural differentiation of embryonic stem cells can be employed to study and characterize molecular regulatory mechanisms governing neurogenesis by applying diverse pharmacological and toxicological agents.
CRISPR/Cas9 Deletion of SOX2 Regulatory Region 2 ( SRR2) Decreases SOX2 Malignant Activity in Glioblastoma
SOX2 is a transcription factor associated with stem cell activity in several tissues. In cancer, SOX2 expression is increased in samples from several malignancies, including glioblastoma, and high SOX2 levels are associated with the population of tumor-initiating cells and with poor patient outcome.
Therefore, understanding how SOX2 is regulated in cancer cells is relevant to tackle tumorigenesis. The SOX2 regulatory region 2(SRR2) is located downstream of the SOX2 coding region and mediates SOX2 expression in embryonic and adult stem cells. In this study, we deleted SRR2 using CRISPR/Cas9 in glioblastoma cells.
Importantly, SRR2-deleted glioblastoma cells presented reduced SOX2 expression and decreased proliferative activity and self-renewal capacity in vitro. In line with these results, SRR2-deleted glioblastoma cells displayed decreased tumor initiation and growth in vivo.
These effects correlated with an elevation of p21CIP1 cell cycle and p27KIP1 quiescence regulators. In conclusion, our data reveal that SRR2 deletion halts malignant activity of SOX2 and confirms that the SRR2 enhancer regulates SOX2 expression in cancer.
Oxidative stress induces the acquisition of cancer stem-like phenotype in breast cancer detectable by using a Sox2 regulatory region-2 (SRR2) reporter.
We have previously identified a novel intra-tumoral dichotomy in breast cancer based on the differential responsiveness to a Sox2 reporter (SRR2), with cells responsive to SRR2 (RR) being more stem-like than unresponsive cells (RU).
Here, we report that RR cells derived from MCF7 and ZR751 displayed a higher tolerance to oxidative stress than their RU counterparts, supporting the concept that the RR phenotype correlates with cancer stemness. Sox2 is directly implicated in this differential H2O2 tolerance, since siRNA knockdown of Sox2 in RR cells leveled this difference. Interestingly, H2O2 converted a proportion of RU cells into RR cells, as evidenced by their expression of luciferase and GFP, markers of SRR2 activity.
Compared to RU cells, converted RR cells showed a significant increase in mammosphere formation and tolerance to H2O2.
Converted RR cells also adopted the biochemical features of RR cells, as evidenced by their substantial increase in Sox2-SRR2 binding and the expression of 3 signature genes of RR cells (CD133, GPR49 and MUC15).
Lastly, the H2O2-induced RU/RR conversion was detectable in a SCID mouse xenograft model and primary tumor cells. To conclude, the H2O2-induced RU/RR conversion has provided a novel model to study the acquisition of cancer stemness and plasticity.
Phosphorylation of Sox2 at Threonine 116 is a Potential Marker to Identify a Subset of Breast Cancer Cells with High Tumorigenecity and Stem-Like Features.
We have previously identified a novel phenotypic dichotomy in breast cancer (BC) based on the response to a SRR2 (Sox2 regulatory region 2) reporter, with reporter responsive (RR) cells being more tumorigenic/stem-like than reporter unresponsive (RU) cells.
Since the expression level of Sox2 is comparable between the two cell subsets, we hypothesized that post-translational modifications of Sox2 contribute to their differential reporter response and phenotypic differences. By liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, we found Sox2 to be phosphorylated in RR but not RU cells.
Threonine 116 is an important phosphorylation site, since transfection of the T116A mutant into RR cells significantly decreased the SRR2 reporter luciferase activity and the RR-associated phenotype. Oxidative stress-induced conversion of RU into RR cells was accompanied by Sox2 phosphorylation at T116 and increased Sox2-DNA binding.
In a cohort of BC, we found significant correlations between the proportion of tumor cells immuno-reactive with anti-phosphorylated Sox2T116 and a high tumor grade (p = 0.006), vascular invasion (p = 0.001) and estrogen receptor expression (p = 0.032).
In conclusion, our data suggests that phosphorylation of Sox2T116 contributes to the tumorigenic/stem-like features in RR cells. Detection of phospho-Sox2T116 may be useful in identifying a small subset of tumor cells carrying stem-like/tumorigenic features in BC.