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J Cell Sci. 2003 Nov 15;116(Pt 22):4533-42.

The 5T4 oncofoetal antigen is an early differentiation marker of mouse ES cells and its absence is a useful means to assess pluripotency.

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Immunology Group, Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, Christie Hospital NHS Trust, Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 4BX, UK.


5T4 oncotrophoblast antigen is a transmembrane glycoprotein expressed by trophoblast and many carcinomas but not most normal adult tissues. Results from overexpression of human and mouse 5T4 cDNA in cell lines are consistent with it having an influence on adhesion, shape and motility. We show that murine embryonic stem cell lines are 5T4 negative but that there is rapid up regulation of protein and transcripts upon differentiation, including derivatives of each primary germ layer, as evidenced by cell surface FACS, western and RT-PCR analyses. The kinetics of differentiation and 5T4 expression are closely correlated, with early events linking 5T4 expression to changes in motility and morphology. Comparison of 5T4 expression with other ES cell transcript (Oct 3/4; Rex-1) and antigen markers (Forsmann, SSEA-1) establishes 5T4 as a useful marker for the non-destructive detection of early differentiation of ES cells. For example, 'undifferentiated' ES phenotype defined as SSEA-1 positive and 5T4 negative is seven times more efficient at chimera formation than SSEA-1-positive/5T4-positive cells. Thus, 5T4 glycoprotein expression is associated with early differentiative events of ES cells involving altered motility, and it has useful practical consequences for assessing ES potency and studying similar processes in development and metastasis.

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