New tools for cell reprogramming and conversion: Possible applications to livestock
Somatic cell nuclear transfer and iPS are both forms of radical cell reprogramming able to transform a fully differentiated cell type into a totipotent or pluripotent cell. Both processes, however, are hampered by low efficiency and, in the case of iPS, the application to livestock species is uncertain. Epigenetic manipulation has recently emerged as an efficient and robust alternative method for cell reprogramming. It is based upon the use of small molecules that are able to modify the levels of DNA methylation with 5-azacitidyne as one of the most widely used. Among a number of advantages, it includes the fact that it can be applied to domestic species including pig, dog and cat. Treated cells undergo a widespread demethylation which is followed by a renewed methylation pattern induced by specific chemical stimuli that lead to the desired phenotype. A detailed study of the mechanisms of epigenetic manipulation revealed that cell plasticity is achieved through the combined action of a reduced DNA methyl transferase activity with an active demethylation driven by the TET protein family. Surprisingly the same combination of molecular processes leads to the transformation of fibroblasts into iPS and regulate the epigenetic changes that take place during early development and, hence, during reprogramming following SCNT. Finally, it has recently emerged that mechanic stimuli in the form of a 3D cell rearrangement can significantly enhance the efficiency of epigenetic reprogramming as well as of maintenance of pluripotency. Interestingly these mechanic stimuli act on the same mechanisms both in epigenetic cell conversion with 5-Aza-CR and in iPS. We suggest that the balanced combination of epigenetic erasing, 3D cell rearrangement and chemical induction can go a long way to obtain ad hoc cell types that can fully exploit the current exiting development brought by gene editing and animal cloning in livestock production.
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