Sequential introduction of reprogramming factors reveals a time-sensitive requirement for individual factors and a sequential EMT–MET mechanism for optimal reprogramming : Nature Cell Biology : Nature Publishing Group
Present practices for reprogramming somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem cells involve simultaneous introduction of reprogramming factors. Here we report that a sequential introduction protocol (Oct4–Klf4 first, then c-Myc and finally Sox2) outperforms the simultaneous one. Surprisingly, the sequential protocol activates an early epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) as indicated by the upregulation of Slug and N-cadherin followed by a delayed mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET). An early EMT induced by 1.5-day TGF-β treatment enhances reprogramming with the simultaneous protocol, whereas 12-day treatment blocks reprogramming. Consistent results were obtained when the TGF-β antagonist Repsox was applied in the sequential protocol. These results reveal a time-sensitive role of individual factors for optimal reprogramming and a sequential EMT–MET mechanism at the start of reprogramming. Our studies provide a rationale for further optimizing reprogramming, and introduce the concept of a sequential EMT–MET mechanism for cell fate decision that should be investigated further in other systems, both in vitro and in vivo.