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Base editing in bovine embryos reveals a species-specific role of SOX2 in regulation of pluripotency

By Lei Luo, Yan Shi, Huanan Wang, Zizengchen Wang, Yanna Dang, Shuang Li, Shaohua Wang, Kun Zhang

Posted 11 Nov 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.10.468023

The emergence of the first three lineages during development are orchestrated by a network of transcription factors, which are best characterized in mice. However, the role and regulation of these factors are not completely conserved in other mammals, including human and cattle. Here, we establish a gene inactivation system by introducing premature codon with cytosine base editor in bovine embryos with a robust efficiency. Of interest, SOX2 is universally localized in early blastocysts but gradually restricted into the inner cell mass in cattle. SOX2 knockout results in a failure of the establishment of pluripotency. Indeed, OCT4 level is significantly reduced and NANOG was barely detectable. Furthermore, the formation of primitive endoderm is compromised with few SOX17 positive cells. Single embryo RNA-seq reveals a dysregulation of 2074 genes, among which 90% are up-regulated in SOX2-null blastocysts. Intriguingly, more than a dozen lineage-specific genes, including OCT4 and NANOG, are down-regulated. Moreover, SOX2 expression is sustained in the trophectoderm in absence of CDX2 in bovine late blastocysts. Overall, we propose that SOX2 is dispensable for OCT4 and NANOG expression and disappearance of SOX2 in the trophectoderm depends on CDX2 in cattle, which are all in sharp contrast with results in mice.

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