Although males and females have a variety of sexually dimorphic features related to hormonal effects, the genetic basis of dimorphism relies on early embryo development. Two pluripotent states, naïve and primed, emerge during early mammalian development. Identification of signaling pathways that induce differences between these two states can help to modulate conversion of primed cells to naïve cells. Naïve cells have a shorter doubling time and longer survival than their primed counterparts when passaged as single cells. In this study, we sought to explore the role of Y chromosome genes on human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) by investigating differential expressions of the male-specific region of the Y chromosome (MSY) genes in primed and naïve cells. Interestingly, we found that several MSY genes, including SRY, showed higher expression levels in primed compared to naïve human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). We hypothesize that SRY prevents WNT/β-catenin signaling by its interaction and inhibition of β-catenin activation in the nucleus. Results of the loss-of-function approach conducted by depletion of SRY indicated increased expressions of pluripotency marker genes and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity in the primed cells. SRY reduction was associated with overexpression of WNT signaling target genes AXIN2, Brachury, TCF1, TBX2, and TBX3. We suggest that inhibition of SRY may result in activation of β-catenin and up-regulation of the WNT signaling pathway, both of which are important to naïve conversion.
- human embryonic stem cell
- WNT signaling pathway