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Single-cell RNA-seq identifies a reversible epithelial-mesenchymal transition in abnormally specified epithelia of p63 EEC syndrome

By Eduardo Soares, Quan Xu, Qingqing Li, Jieqiong Qu, Yuxuan Zheng, Henriette H. M. Raeven, Karina Brandao, Isabelle Petit, Willem M.R. van den Akker, Daniel Aberdam, Fuchou Tang, Huiqing Zhou

Posted 07 Oct 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/437632

Mutations in transcription factor p63 are associated with developmental disorders that manifest defects in stratified epithelia including the epidermis. We established an epidermal commitment model using human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and characterized differentiation defects of iPSCs derived from ectrodactyly, ectodermal dysplasia, and cleft lip/palate (EEC) syndrome patients carrying p63 mutations. Transcriptome analyses revealed distinct cell fates during epidermal commitment: multipotent simple epithelial, basal stratified epithelial and mature epidermal fates. Differentiation defects of EEC iPSCs caused by mutant p63 occurred during the specification switch from the simple epithelium to the basal stratified epithelial fate. Single-cell transcriptome and pseudotime analyses identified signatures of embryonic epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) associated with the deviated commitment route of EEC iPSCs. Repressing mesodermal activation reversed the EMT and enhanced epidermal commitment. Our findings demonstrate that p63 is required for specification of stratified epithelia, probably by repressing embryonic EMT during epidermal commitment. This study provides insights into disease mechanisms underlying stratified epithelial defects caused by p63 mutations.

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