Genes Associated with Pancreas Development and Function Maintain Open Chromatin in iPSCs Generated from Human Pancreatic Beta Cells

Matthias Thurner, Liraz Shenhav, Agata Wesolowska-Andersen, Amanda J. Bennett, Amy Barrett, Anna L. Gloyn, Mark I. McCarthy, Nicola L. Beer*, Shimon Efrat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current in vitro islet differentiation protocols suffer from heterogeneity and low efficiency. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from pancreatic beta cells (BiPSCs) preferentially differentiate toward endocrine pancreas-like cells versus those from fibroblasts (FiPSCs). We interrogated genome-wide open chromatin in BiPSCs and FiPSCs via ATAC-seq and identified ∼8.3k significant, differential open chromatin sites (DOCS) between the two iPSC subtypes (false discovery rate [FDR] < 0.05). DOCS where chromatin was more accessible in BiPSCs (Bi-DOCS) were significantly enriched for known regulators of endodermal development, including bivalent and weak enhancers, and FOXA2 binding sites (FDR < 0.05). Bi-DOCS were associated with genes related to pancreas development and beta-cell function, including transcription factors mutated in monogenic diabetes (PDX1, NKX2-2, HNF1A; FDR < 0.05). Moreover, Bi-DOCS correlated with enhanced gene expression in BiPSC-derived definitive endoderm and pancreatic progenitor cells. Bi-DOCS therefore highlight genes and pathways governing islet-lineage commitment, which can be exploited for differentiation protocol optimization, diabetes disease modeling, and therapeutic purposes. Beer and colleagues showed that iPSCs from beta cells (BiPSCs) preferentially differentiate into islet-lineage cells versus fibroblast iPSCs (FiPSCs). Differential open chromatin sites (DOCS) specific to BiPSCs (Bi-DOCS) were identified, enriched for pancreas development genes, and correlated with gene expression changes during directed differentiation. By governing developmental gene expression during differentiation, DOCS may explain the endodermal preference of BiPSCs and highlight novel beta-cell biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1395-1405
Number of pages11
JournalStem Cell Reports
Issue number5
StatePublished - 14 Nov 2017


  • beta-cell
  • diabetes
  • endoderm differentiation
  • epigenetics
  • genomics
  • human iPS cell
  • pancreas


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