Tet1 Suppresses p21 to Ensure Proper Cell Cycle Progression in Embryonic Stem Cells

Stephanie Chrysanthou, Julio C. Flores, Meelad M. Dawlaty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Ten eleven translocation 1 (Tet1) is a DNA dioxygenase that promotes DNA demethylation by oxidizing 5-methylcytosine. It can also partner with chromatin-activating and repressive complexes to regulate gene expressions independent of its enzymatic activity. Tet1 is highly expressed in embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and regulates pluripotency and differentiation. However, its roles in ESC cell cycle progression and proliferation have not been investigated. Using a series of Tet1 catalytic mutant (Tet1m/m), knockout (Tet1−/−) and wild type (Tet1+/+) mouse ESCs (mESCs), we identified a non-catalytic role of Tet1 in the proper cell cycle progression and proliferation of mESCs. Tet1−/−, but not Tet1m/m, mESCs exhibited a significant reduction in proliferation and delayed progression through G1. We found that the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21/Cdkn1a was uniquely upregulated in Tet1−/− mESCs and its knockdown corrected the slow proliferation and delayed G1 progression. Mechanistically, we found that p21 was a direct target of Tet1. Tet1 occupancy at the p21 promoter overlapped with the repressive histone mark H3K27me3 as well as with the H3K27 trimethyl transferase PRC2 component Ezh2. A loss of Tet1, but not loss of its catalytic activity, significantly reduced the enrichment of Ezh2 and H3K27 trimethylation at the p21 promoter without affecting the DNA methylation levels. We also found that the proliferation defects of Tet1−/− mESCs were independent of their differentiation defects. Together, these findings established a non-catalytic role for Tet1 in suppressing p21 in mESCs to ensure a rapid G1-to-S progression, which is a key hallmark of ESC proliferation. It also established Tet1 as an epigenetic regulator of ESC proliferation in addition to its previously defined roles in ESC pluripotency and differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1366
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • ESC
  • Tet1
  • cell cycle
  • p21
  • proliferation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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