Incomplete knowledge of the mechanisms at work continues to hamper efforts to maximize reprogramming efficiency. Here, we present a systematic genome-wide RNAi screen to determine the global regulators during the early stages of human reprogramming. Our screen identifies functional repressors and effectors that act to impede or promote the reprogramming process. Repressors and effectors form close interacting networks in pathways, including RNA processing, G protein signaling, protein ubiquitination, and chromatin modification. Combinatorial knockdown of five repressors (SMAD3, ZMYM2, SFRS11, SAE1, and ESET) synergistically resulted in ∼85% TRA-1-60-positive cells. Removal of the novel splicing factor SFRS11 during reprogramming is accompanied by rapid acquisition of pluripotency-specific spliced forms. Mechanistically, SFRS11 regulates exon skipping and mutually exclusive splicing of transcripts in genes involved in cell differentiation, mRNA splicing, and chromatin modification. Our study provides insights into the reprogramming process, which comprises comprehensive and multi-layered transcriptional, splicing, and epigenetic machineries.
H.L. supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (CA196631-01A1 and 1U54GM114838-01). Y.-H.L. is supported by the A*Star Investigatorship research award and grants JCO R09138 and JCO
R09125. We are grateful to the Biomedical Research Council, Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore for research funding.