Genome-wide studies reveal the essential and opposite roles of ARID1A in controlling human cardiogenesis and neurogenesis from pluripotent stem cells

Juli Liu, Sheng Liu, Hongyu Gao, Lei Han, Xiaona Chu, Yi Sheng, Weinian Shou, Yue Wang, Yunlong Liu, Jun Wan, Lei Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Early human heart and brain development simultaneously occur during embryogenesis. Notably, in human newborns, congenital heart defects strongly associate with neurodevelopmental abnormalities, suggesting a common gene or complex underlying both cardiogenesis and neurogenesis. However, due to lack of in vivo studies, the molecular mechanisms that govern both early human heart and brain development remain elusive. Results: Here, we report ARID1A, a DNA-binding subunit of the SWI/SNF epigenetic complex, controls both neurogenesis and cardiogenesis from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) through distinct mechanisms. Knockout-of-ARID1A (ARID1A-/-) leads to spontaneous differentiation of neural cells together with globally enhanced expression of neurogenic genes in undifferentiated hESCs. Additionally, when compared with WT hESCs, cardiac differentiation from ARID1A -/- hESCs is prominently suppressed, whereas neural differentiation is significantly promoted. Whole genome-wide scRNA-seq, ATAC-seq, and ChIP-seq analyses reveal that ARID1A is required to open chromatin accessibility on promoters of essential cardiogenic genes, and temporally associated with key cardiogenic transcriptional factors T and MEF2C during early cardiac development. However, during early neural development, transcription of most essential neurogenic genes is dependent on ARID1A, which can interact with a known neural restrictive silencer factor REST/NRSF. Conclusions: We uncover the opposite roles by ARID1A to govern both early cardiac and neural development from pluripotent stem cells. Global chromatin accessibility on cardiogenic genes is dependent on ARID1A, whereas transcriptional activity of neurogenic genes is under control by ARID1A, possibly through ARID1A-REST/NRSF interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number169
JournalGenome biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 9 2020


  • ARID1A
  • Cardiogenesis
  • Chromatin remodeling
  • Neurogenesis
  • Pluripotent stem cells
  • REST

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology

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