Regulation of Stem Cell Metabolism by the Lin28/let-7 Axis

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Regulation of Stem Cell Metabolism by the Lin28/let-7 Axis

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Title: Regulation of Stem Cell Metabolism by the Lin28/let-7 Axis
Author: Ng, Shyh Chang
Citation: Ng, Shyh Chang. 2013. Regulation of Stem Cell Metabolism by the Lin28/let-7 Axis. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: My PhD thesis is focused on two fundamental aspects of stem cell metabolism: (1) the role of Lin28 in programming stem cell metabolism, and (2) how metabolism in turn fuels and governs pluripotency. Our studies led us to discover that the stem cell factor Lin28a promotes gigantism by enhancing glucose metabolism in mice, coinciding with discoveries that LIN28B polymorphisms influence height variation in human GWAS. Subsequently, we discovered that the Lin28/let-7 pathway controls glucose metabolism by orchestrating the upregulation of multiple insulin-PI3K-mTOR components, particularly in skeletal muscle progenitors. Since let-7 accumulates with aging, our discoveries suggest that let-7 could represent a new drug target for treating insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes during aging. During these studies, we also observed that Lin28a enhances tissue regeneration in adulthood. Regeneration capacity has long been known to decline with aging, but why juvenile organisms show enhanced tissue repair had remained unexplained. We found that Lin28a reactivation improved the regrowth of skin, hair, cartilage, bone and mesenchyme after injuries. Let-7 repression was necessary but insufficient to explain these phenotypes. In parallel, Lin28a bound to and enhanced the translation of mRNAs for several oxidative enzymes, thereby increasing OxPhos. Lin28a-mediated tissue repair was negated by OxPhos inhibition, whereas a pharmacologically-induced increase in OxPhos promoted wound repair. Thus, Lin28a enhanced tissue regeneration in adults by reprogramming cellular bioenergetics. My interest in the central principles of stem cell metabolism also led us to map the metabolic pathways associated with pluripotency during iPS reprogramming and Lin28/let-7 perturbation. Surprisingly, we found that Thr-Gly-S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) metabolism consistently showed the best correlation with pluripotency. 13Carbon isotope metabolomics further revealed that Thr was catabolized to generate Gly and acetyl-CoA, and ultimately SAM - essential for all methylation reactions. Thr is required for SAM and histone H3K4 methylation in mouse ESCs, thus regulating the open euchromatin and pluripotency of ESCs. Our study shed light on a novel amino acid pathway in stem cells, and demonstrated that metabolic conditions can direct cell fate. In summary, my work has helped us to understand how we can reprogram and manipulate metabolic networks to regulate stem cell homeostasis.
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