Abstract: Pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have a transcriptionally permissive chromatin environment enriched for gene activation-associated histone modifications as compared to somatic cells. A striking exception is DOT1L-mediated H3K79 methylation that is considered a positive regulator of transcription. Here we find that ESCs maintain low H3K79 methylation to facilitate RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) elongation for greater nascent transcription. Inhibiting DOT1L during the reprogramming of somatic to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) enables ESC-like RNAPII and transcriptional status. Mechanistically, DOT1L inhibition causes a local gain of histone acetylation at genes that lose the most H3K79me, which unexpectedly are ubiquitously expressed genes that perform essential functions in every cell, rather than lineage specifying genes. Maintenance of this elevated histone acetylation is required for the enhanced conversion to iPSCs upon DOT1L inhibition. Remarkably, increasing global DOT1L or site-specific tethering of DOT1L is sufficient to decrease H3K9ac in ESCs. We discover a high H3ac- low H3K79me epigenetic mechanism that promotes transcription elongation at ubiquitously expressed genes to enforce pluripotent cell identity.

Journal Link: 10.1101/2022.09.26.509534 Journal Link: Publisher Website Journal Link: Download PDF Journal Link: Google Scholar