EpCAM Intracellular Domain Promotes Porcine Cell Reprogramming by Upregulation of Pluripotent Gene Expression via Beta-catenin Signaling

Previous study showed that expression of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) was significantly upregulated in porcine induced pluripotent stem cells (piPSCs). However, the regulatory mechanism and the downstream target genes of EpCAM were not well investigated. In this study, we found that EpCAM was undetectable in fibroblasts, but highly expressed in piPSCs. Promoter of EpCAM was upregulated by zygotic activated factors LIN28, and ESRRB, but repressed by maternal factors OCT4 and SOX2. Knocking down EpCAM by shRNA significantly reduced the pluripotent gene expression. Conversely, overexpression of EpCAM significantly increased the number of alkaline phosphatase positive colonies and elevated the expression of endogenous pluripotent genes. As a key surface-to-nucleus factor, EpCAM releases its intercellular domain (EpICD) by a two-step proteolytic processing sequentially. Blocking the proteolytic processing by inhibitors TAPI-1 and DAPT could reduce the intracellular level of EpICD and lower expressions of OCT4, SOX2, LIN28, and ESRRB. We noticed that increasing intracellular EpICD only was unable to improve activity of EpCAM targeted genes, but by blocking GSK-3 signaling and stabilizing beta-catenin signaling, EpICD could then significantly stimulate the promoter activity. These results showed that EpCAM intracellular domain required beta-catenin signaling to enhance porcine cell reprogramming.

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