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Effects and mechanism of p53 gene deletion on energy metabolism during the pluripotent transformation of spermatogonial stem cells

LIU Hong-Yang1,2, WEI Rui1,2, LI Xiao-Xiao1,2, ZOU Kang1,2,*

1 Germline Stem Cells and Microenvironment Lab, College of Animal Science and Technology, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, China;2Stem Cell Research and Translation Center, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, China


Previous studies have shown that long-term spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) have the potential to spontaneously transform into pluripotent stem cells, which is speculated to be related to the tumorigenesis of testicular germ cells, especially when p53 is deficient in SSCs which shows a significant increase in the spontaneous transformation efficiency. Energy metabolism has been proved to be strongly associated with the maintenance and acquisition of pluripotency. Recently, we compared the difference in chromatin accessibility and gene expression profiles between wild-type (p53+/+) and p53 deficient (p53−/−) mouse SSCs using the Assay for Targeting Accessible-Chromatin with high-throughput sequencing (ATAC-seq) and transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) techniques, and revealed that SMAD3 is a key transcription factor in the transformation of SSCs into pluripotent cells. In addition, we also observed significant changes in the expression levels of many genes related to energy metabolism after p53 deletion. To further reveal the role of p53 in the regulation of pluripotency and energy metabolism, this paper explored the effects and mechanism of p53 deletion on energy metabolism during the pluripotent transformation of SSCs. The results of ATAC-seq and RNA-seq from p53+/+ and p53−/− SSCs revealed that gene chromatin accessibility related to positive regulation of glycolysis and electron transfer and ATP synthesis was increased, and the transcription levels of genes encoding key glycolytic enzymes and regulating electron transport-related enzymes were markedly increased. Furthermore, transcription factors SMAD3 and SMAD4 promoted glycolysis and energy homeostasis by binding to the chromatin of the Prkag2 gene which encodes the AMPK subunit. These results suggest that p53 deficiency activates the key enzyme genes of glycolysis in SSCs and enhances the chromatin accessibility of genes associated with glycolysis activation to improve glycolysis activity and promote transformation to pluripotency. Moreover, SMAD3/SMAD4-mediated transcription of the Prkag2 gene ensures the energy demand of cells in the process of pluripotency transformation and maintains cell energy homeostasis by promoting AMPK activity. These results shed light on the importance of the crosstalk between energy metabolism and stem cell pluripotency transformation, which might be helpful for clinical research of gonadal tumors.

Key words: spermatogonial stem cells; pluripotency; p53; energy metabolism; ATAC-seq; RNA-seq

Received:   Accepted:

Corresponding author: ZOU Kang  E-mail: ,

DOI: 10.13294/j.aps.2022.0069

Citing This Article:

LIU Hong-Yang, WEI Rui, LI Xiao-Xiao, ZOU Kang. Effects and mechanism of p53 gene deletion on energy metabolism during the pluripotent transformation of spermatogonial stem cells. Acta Physiol Sin 2023; 75 (1): 17-26 (in Chinese with English abstract).