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Nat Genet. 2000 Apr;24(4):372-6.

Quantitative expression of Oct-3/4 defines differentiation, dedifferentiation or self-renewal of ES cells.

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  • 1Centre for Genome Research, The University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, Edinburgh, UK.

Abstract

Cell fate during development is defined by transcription factors that act as molecular switches to activate or repress specific gene expression programmes. The POU transcription factor Oct-3/4 (encoded by Pou5f1) is a candidate regulator in pluripotent and germline cells and is essential for the initial formation of a pluripotent founder cell population in the mammalian embryo. Here we use conditional expression and repression in embryonic stem (ES) cells to determine requirements for Oct-3/4 in the maintenance of developmental potency. Although transcriptional determination has usually been considered as a binary on-off control system, we found that the precise level of Oct-3/4 governs three distinct fates of ES cells. A less than twofold increase in expression causes differentiation into primitive endoderm and mesoderm. In contrast, repression of Oct-3/4 induces loss of pluripotency and dedifferentiation to trophectoderm. Thus a critical amount of Oct-3/4 is required to sustain stem-cell self-renewal, and up- or downregulation induce divergent developmental programmes. Our findings establish a role for Oct-3/4 as a master regulator of pluripotency that controls lineage commitment and illustrate the sophistication of critical transcriptional regulators and the consequent importance of quantitative analyses.

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PMID:
10742100
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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