Polyploidisation pleiotropically buffers ageing in hepatocytes

Kelvin Yin, Maren Büttner, Ioannis K. Deligiannis, Mateusz Strzelecki, Liwei Zhang, Carlos Talavera-López, Fabian Theis, Duncan T. Odom, Celia P. Martinez-Jimenez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: Polyploidy in hepatocytes has been proposed as a genetic mechanism to buffer against transcriptional dysregulation. Here, we aim to demonstrate the role of polyploidy in modulating gene regulatory networks in hepatocytes during ageing. Methods: We performed single-nucleus RNA sequencing in hepatocyte nuclei of different ploidy levels isolated from young and old wild-type mice. Changes in the gene expression and regulatory network were compared to three independent strains that were haploinsufficient for HNF4A, CEBPA or CTCF, representing non-deleterious perturbations. Phenotypic characteristics of the liver section were additionally evaluated histologically, whereas the genomic allele composition of hepatocytes was analysed by BaseScope. Results: We observed that ageing in wild-type mice results in nuclei polyploidy and a marked increase in steatosis. Haploinsufficiency of liver-specific master regulators (HFN4A or CEBPA) results in the enrichment of hepatocytes with tetraploid nuclei at a young age, affecting the genomic regulatory network, and dramatically suppressing ageing-related steatosis tissue wide. Notably, these phenotypes are not the result of subtle disruption to liver-specific transcriptional networks, since haploinsufficiency in the CTCF insulator protein resulted in the same phenotype. Further quantification of genotypes of tetraploid hepatocytes in young and old HFN4A-haploinsufficient mice revealed that during ageing, tetraploid hepatocytes lead to the selection of wild-type alleles, restoring non-deleterious genetic perturbations. Conclusions: Our results suggest a model whereby polyploidisation leads to fundamentally different cell states. Polyploid conversion enables pleiotropic buffering against age-related decline via non-random allelic segregation to restore a wild-type genome. Impact and implications: The functional role of hepatocyte polyploidisation during ageing is poorly understood. Using single-nucleus RNA sequencing and BaseScope approaches, we have studied ploidy dynamics during ageing in murine livers with non-deleterious genetic perturbations. We have identified that hepatocytes present different cellular states and the ability to buffer ageing-associated dysfunctions. Tetraploid nuclei exhibit robust transcriptional networks and are better adapted to genomically overcome perturbations. Novel therapeutic interventions aimed at attenuating age-related changes in tissue function could be exploited by manipulation of ploidy dynamics during chronic liver conditions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Hepatology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • ageing
  • BaseScope
  • epigenetic clock
  • haploinsufficiency
  • Liver
  • polyploidy
  • single-nucleus RNA-seq


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