Towards programming and reprogramming cell identity using synthetic transcription factors
Gogolok, Sabine Franziska
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Remarkable progress has been made in our ability to design and produce synthetic DNA binding domains (TALE or Cas9-based), which can be further functionalized into synthetic transcription factors (sTFs). This technology is revolutionizing our ability to modulate expression of endogenous mammalian genes. Forced expression of cDNAs encoding transcription factors (TFs) is widely used to drive lineage conversions. However, this process is often inefficient and unreliable. Multiplex delivery of sTFs pool to activate endogenous master regulators and extinguish the expression profile of the host cell type could be a potential solution to this problem. We have developed a novel, simple TALE assembly method that enabled us to produce and screen large numbers of TAL effectors and compare their activity to dCas9-based TFs. During this process, we constructed many new functionally validated sTFs. Our ultimate goal is to test whether combining synthetic transcriptional activators and repressors can efficiently reprogram fibroblasts to NS cells or alternatively ‘program’ NS cell differentiation to neurons. We performed analyses of the transcriptome and chromatin accessibility of both fibroblasts and neural stem cells to unravel their core TF networks and their epigenetic state. This will allow us in the future the targeted design of sTFs and synthetic chromatin modifiers for specifically changing cell identity.