Tissue homeostasis and regeneration rely on resident stem cells (SCs), whose behaviour is regulated through niche-dependent crosstalk. The mechanisms underlying SC identity are still unfolding. Here, using spatiotemporal gene ablation in murine hair follicles, we uncover a critical role for the transcription factors (TFs) nuclear factor IB (NFIB) and IX (NFIX) in maintaining SC identity. Without NFI TFs, SCs lose their hair-regenerating capability, and produce skin bearing striking resemblance to irreversible human alopecia, which also displays reduced NFIs. Through single-cell transcriptomics, ATAC-Seq and ChIP-Seq profiling, we expose a key role for NFIB and NFIX in governing super-enhancer maintenance of the key hair follicle SC-specific TF genes. When NFIB and NFIX are genetically removed, the stemness epigenetic landscape is lost. Super-enhancers driving SC identity are decommissioned, while unwanted lineages are de-repressed ectopically. Together, our findings expose NFIB and NFIX as crucial rheostats of tissue homeostasis, functioning to safeguard the SC epigenome from a breach in lineage confinement that otherwise triggers irreversible tissue degeneration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology