Targeting Mll1 H3K4 methyltransferase activity to guide cardiac lineage specific reprogramming of fibroblasts

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Liu L., Lei I., KARATAŞ BRISTOW H., Li Y., Wang L., Gnatovskiy L., ...More

Cell Discovery, vol.2, 2016 (Scopus) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 2
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Doi Number: 10.1038/celldisc.2016.36
  • Journal Name: Cell Discovery
  • Journal Indexes: Scopus
  • Keywords: adipocyte, cardiomyocyte, Cardiac reprogramming, H3K4 methyltransferase, Mll1 inhibitor
  • Istanbul Medipol University Affiliated: Yes


Generation of induced cardiomyocytes (iCMs) directly from fibroblasts offers a great opportunity for cardiac disease modeling and cardiac regeneration. A major challenge of iCM generation is the low conversion rate. To address this issue, we attempted to identify small molecules that could potentiate the reprogramming ability towards cardiac fate by removing inhibitory roadblocks. Using mouse embryonic fibroblasts as the starting cell source, we first screened 47 cardiac development related epigenetic and transcription factors, and identified an unexpected role of H3K4 methyltransferase Mll1 and related factor Men1 in inhibiting iCM reprogramming. We then applied small molecules (MM408 and MI503) of Mll1 pathway inhibitors and observed an improved efficiency in converting embryonic fibroblasts and cardiac fibroblasts into functional cardiomyocyte-like cells. We further observed that these inhibitors directly suppressed the expression of Mll1 target gene Ebf1 involved in adipocyte differentiation. Consequently, Mll1 inhibition significantly decreased the formation of adipocytes during iCM induction. Therefore, Mll1 inhibitors likely increased iCM efficiency by suppressing alternative lineage gene expression. Our studies show that targeting Mll1 dependent H3K4 methyltransferase activity provides specificity in the process of cardiac reprogramming. These findings shed new light on the molecular mechanisms underlying cardiac conversion of fibroblasts and provide novel targets and small molecules to improve iCM reprogramming for clinical applications.