Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

First Thesis Advisor

Tariq M. Rana, PhD


Embryonic Stem Cells, Fibroblasts, Gene Expression Profiling, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, MicroRNAs, Nuclear Reprogramming, Octamer Transcription Factor-3, RNA Interference, SOXB1 Transcription Factors


Dissertations, UMMS; Embryonic Stem Cells; Fibroblasts; Gene Expression Profiling; Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells; MicroRNAs; Nuclear Reprogramming; Octamer Transcription Factor-3; RNA Interference; SOXB1 Transcription Factors


Recent breakthroughs in creating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) provide alternative means to obtain embryonic stem (ES) cell-like cells without destroying embryos by introducing four reprogramming factors (Oct3/4, Sox2, and Klf4/c-Myc or Nanog/Lin28) into somatic cells. However, the molecular basis of reprogramming is largely unknown. To address this question, we employed microRNAs, small molecules, and conducted genome-wide RNAi screen, to investigate the regulatory mechanisms of reprogramming.

First we showed that depleting miR-21 and miR-29a enhances reprogramming in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). We also showed that p53 and ERK1/2 pathways are regulated by miR-21 and miR-29a and function in reprogramming.

Second, we showed that computational chemical biology combined with genomic analysis can be used to identify small molecules regulating reprogramming. We discovered that the NSAID Nabumetone and the anti-cancer drug OHTM could replace Sox2 during reprogramming. Nabumetone could also replace c-Myc or Sox2 without compromising self-renewal and pluripotency of derived iPS cells.

To identify the cell-fate determinants during reprogramming, we integrated a genome-wide RNAi screen with transcriptome analysis to dissect the molecular requirements in reprogramming. We found that extensive interactions of embryonic stem cell core circuitry regulators are established in mature iPS cells, including Utf1, Nr6a1, Tdgf1, Gsc, Fgf10, T, Chrd, Dppa3, Fgf17, Eomes, Foxa2. Remarkably, genes with non-differential change play the most critical roles in the transitions of reprogramming. Functional validation showed that some genes act as essential or barrier roles to reprogramming. We also identified several genes required for maintaining ES cell properties. Altogether, our results demonstrate the significance of miRNA function in regulating multiple signaling networks involved in reprogramming. And our work further advanced the reprogramming field by identifying several new key modulators.



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