New research identifies protein that regulates stem cell differentiation

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Factors controlling the balance between stem cell renewal and differentiation have been the subject of several recent research papers. Just recently, exosomes were described as having a role in the induction of differentiation of human stem cells. Now, a new research paper claims to have identified a protein that is thought to be directly responsible for keeping a balance between differentiation and renewal

The study, titled “Coordination of m6A mRNA Methylation and Gene Transcription by ZFP217 Regulates Pluripotency and Reprogramming” was published this week in Cell Stem Cell by Dr Martin Walsh’s lab at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The authors identified a protein called “”zinc finger protein 217” as being responsible for the renewal-differentiation balance of human stem cells.

By using human embryonic stem cells, they discovered that ZFP217 activates the transcription of key pluripotency genes. It does so by modulating m6A deposition onto m6A methyltransferase-like 3 (METTL3) and rendering it inactive, which prevents methylations which causes the stem cells to differentiate, putting an end to their self-renewal and pluripotency.

The authors also discovered that ZFP217 turns on a number of genes important for stemness, including NanogSox2Klf4, and c-Myc.

Graphical Abstract V03

Though preliminary, these important findings are adding to the deepening well of knowledge about the regulation of stem cell  pluripotency, which have a potentially therapeutically tremendous impact in regenerative medicine.

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