Hierarchical molecular events driven by oocyte-specific factors lead to rapid and extensive reprogramming.
In this work we identified how key molecules stored in an oocyte reprogram somatic nuclei following nuclear transfer.
Nuclear transfer to oocytes is an efficient way to transcriptionally reprogram somatic nuclei, but its mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we identify a sequence of molecular events that leads to rapid transcriptional reprogramming of somatic nuclei after transplantation to Xenopus oocytes. RNA-seq analyses reveal that reprogramming by oocytes results in a selective switch in transcription toward an oocyte rather than pluripotent type, without requiring new protein synthesis. Time-course analyses at the single-nucleus level show that transcriptional reprogramming is induced in most transplanted nuclei in a highly hierarchical manner. We demonstrate that an extensive exchange of somatic- for oocyte-specific factors mediates reprogramming and leads to robust oocyte RNA polymerase II binding and phosphorylation on transplanted chromatin. Moreover, genome-wide binding of oocyte-specific linker histone B4 supports its role in transcriptional reprogramming. Thus, our study reveals the rapid, abundant, and stepwise loading of oocyte-specific factors onto somatic chromatin as important determinants for successful reprogramming.