Global and stage specific patterns of krüppel-associated-box zinc finger protein gene expression in murine early embryonic cells
Highly coordinated transcription networks orchestrate the self-renewal of pluripotent stem cell and the earliest steps of mammalian development. KRAB-containing zinc finger proteins represent the largest group of transcription factors encoded by the genomes of higher vertebrates including mice and humans. Together with their putatively universal cofactor KAP1, they have been implicated in events as diverse as the silencing of endogenous retroelements, the maintenance of imprinting and the pluripotent self-renewal of embryonic stem cells, although the genomic targets and specific functions of individual members of this gene family remain largely undefined. Here, we first generated a list of Ensembl-annotated KRAB-containing genes encoding the mouse and human genomes. We then defined the transcription levels of these genes in murine early embryonic cells. We found that the majority of KRAB-ZFP genes are expressed in mouse pluripotent stem cells and other early progenitors. However, we also identified distinctively cell- or stage-specific patterns of expression, some of which are pluripotency-restricted. Finally, we determined that individual KRAB-ZFP genes exhibit highly distinctive modes of expression, even when grouped in genomic clusters, and that these cannot be correlated with the presence of prototypic repressive or activating chromatin marks. These results pave the way to delineating the role of specific KRAB-ZFPs in early embryogenesis.