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Cell. 2005 May 6;121(3):465-77.

Ectopic expression of Oct-4 blocks progenitor-cell differentiation and causes dysplasia in epithelial tissues.

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  • 1Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, 9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


The POU-domain transcription factor Oct-4 is normally expressed in pluripotent cells of the mammalian embryo. In addition, germ-cell tumors and a few somatic tumors show detectable expression of Oct-4. While Oct-4's role during preimplantation development is to maintain embryonic cells in a pluripotent state, little is known about its potential oncogenic properties. Here we investigate the effect of ectopic Oct-4 expression on somatic tissues of adult mice using a doxycycline-dependent expression system. Activation of Oct-4 results in dysplastic growths in epithelial tissues that are dependent on continuous Oct-4 expression. Dysplastic lesions show an expansion of progenitor cells and increased beta-catenin transcriptional activity. In the intestine, Oct-4 expression causes dysplasia by inhibiting cellular differentiation in a manner similar to that in embryonic cells. These data show that certain adult progenitors remain competent to interpret key embryonic signals and support the notion that progenitor cells are a driving force in tumorigenesis.

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