Conversion of Fibroblasts to Neural Cells by p53 Depletion

Di Zhou, Zhen Zhang, Li Ming He, Juan Du, Fan Zhang, Chong Kui Sun, Yu Zhou, Xiao Wei Wang, Ge Lin, Ke Ming Song, Ling Gang Wu, Qin Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Conversion from fibroblasts to neurons has recently been successfully induced. However, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, we find that depletion of p53 alone converts fibroblasts into all three major neural lineages. The induced neuronal cells express multiple neuron-specific proteins and generate action potentials and transmitter-receptor-mediated currents. Surprisingly, depletion does not affect the well-known tumorigenic p53 target, p21. Instead, knockdown of p53 upregulates neurogenic transcription factors, which in turn boosts fibroblast-neuron conversion. p53 binds the promoter of the neurogenic transcription factor Neurod2 and regulates its expression during fibroblast-neuron conversion. Furthermore, our method provides a high efficiency of conversion in late-passage fibroblasts. Genome-wide transcriptional analysis shows that the p53-deficiency-induced neurons exhibit an expression profile different from parental fibroblasts and similar to control-induced neurons. The results may help to understand and improve neural conversion mechanisms to develop robust neuron-replacement therapy strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2034-2042
Number of pages9
JournalCell Reports
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 24 2014


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