Oct4 primarily controls enhancer activity rather than accessibility


Xiong L, Tolen EA, Choi J, Caizzi L, Adachi K, Lidschreiber M, Cramer P, Schoeler HR




bioRxiv 2021.06.28.450119.


The transcription factor Oct4 is essential for maintaining stem cell pluripotency and for efficient cell reprogramming, but its functional roles are far from being understood. Here, we investigate the functions of Oct4 by rapidly depleting Oct4 from mouse embryonic stem cells and conducting a time-resolved multiomics analysis. Oct4 depletion leads to an immediate loss of its binding to putative enhancers that are accessible in chromatin. Loss of Oct4 is accompanied by a concomitant decrease in mRNA synthesis from putative target genes that are part of the transcriptional network that maintains pluripotency. Oct4 binding to enhancers does not correlate with chromatin accessibility, whereas Sox2 can apparently retain accessibility after Oct4 depletion even in the absence of eRNA synthesis. These results are consistent with the model that Sox2 primarily acts as a pioneer factor that renders enhancers accessible, whereas Oct4 acts primarily as a transcriptional activator that stimulates transcription of pluripotency enhancers and their target genes.