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PLoS One. 2010 Aug 20;5(8):e12308. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012308.

Loss of pluripotency in human embryonic stem cells directly correlates with an increase in nuclear zinc.

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  • 1Biosciences Division, Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois, United States of America.


The pluripotency of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) is important to investigations of early development and to cell replacement therapy, but the mechanism behind pluripotency is incompletely understood. Zinc has been shown to play a key role in differentiation of non-pluripotent cell types, but here its role in hESCs is directly examined. By mapping the distribution of metals in hESCs at high resolution by x-ray fluorescence microprobe (XFM) and by analyzing subcellular metal content, we have found evidence that loss of pluripotency is directly correlated with an increase in nuclear zinc. Zinc elevation not only redefines our understanding of the mechanisms that support pluripotency, but also may act as a biomarker and an intervention point for stem cell differentiation.

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