Smad2/3 potentiate cell identity conversions with master transcription factors
Ruetz, Tyson Joel
The exogenous expression of master transcription factors (TFs) to drive cell identity changes is an exciting and powerful approach to cell and tissue engineering. Yet, the generation of desired cell types is often plagued by inefficiency and inability to produce mature cell types. Through investigations of the molecular mechanisms of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) generation, I discovered that expression of constitutively active Smad2/3 (Smad2CA/3CA), together with the Yamanaka factors, could dramatically improve the efficiency of reprogramming. Mechanistically, SMAD3 interacted with both co-activators and reprogramming factors, bridging their interaction during reprogramming. Because SMAD2/3 interact with a multitude of master TFs in different cell types, I tested the conversions of B cells to macrophages, myoblasts to adipocytes, and human fibroblasts to neurons. Remarkably, each conversion system was markedly enhanced when the master TFs were co-expressed with Smad3CA. These results revealed the existence of shared molecular mechanisms underlying diverse TF-mediated cellular conversions, and demonstrated SMAD2/3 as a widely applicable cofactor that potentiates the generation of diverse cell types with profound efficiency and maturity.