Jørgensen HF, Terry A, Beretta C, Pereira CF, Leleu M, Chen ZF, Kelly C, Merkenschlager M, and Fisher AG. (2009) REST selectively represses a subset of RE1-containing neuronal genes in mouse embryonic stem cells. Development 136(5):715-721. PMID: 19201947
REST is a transcriptional repressor that targets a group of neuronal genes in non-neuronal cells. In embryonic stem (ES) cells, REST has been implicated in controlling the expression of transcription factor genes that are crucial for lineage determination and for maintaining ES cell potential. Here, we asked whether REST directly regulates neural-specifying genes in mouse ES cells using siRNA-mediated REST knockdown and ES cells that lack functional REST protein as a result of gene targeting. Loss of REST did not affect the expression of any of ten transcription factor genes known to promote neural commitment and did not affect the expression of several microRNAs, including miR-21, a putative REST target in ES cells. REST-deficient ES cells retained the ability to self-renew and to undergo appropriate differentiation towards mesoderm, endoderm and ectoderm lineages upon LIF withdrawal. Genome-wide expression profiling showed that genes that were deregulated in the absence of REST were preferentially expressed in the brain and highly enriched for the presence of canonical REST binding sites (RE1). Chromatin immunoprecipitation studies confirmed these genes as direct targets of REST in ES cells. Collectively, these data show that REST selectively silences a cohort of neuronal genes in ES cells.