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Cell Stem Cell. 2008 Apr 10;2(4):345-55. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2008.02.004.

Trophoblast differentiation defect in human embryonic stem cells lacking PIG-A and GPI-anchored cell-surface proteins.

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Stem Cell Program, Institute for Cell Engineering, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Pluripotent human embryonic stem (hES) cells can differentiate into various cell types derived from the three embryonic germ layers and extraembryonic tissues such as trophoblasts. The mechanisms governing lineage choices of hES cells are largely unknown. Here, we report that we established two independent hES cell clones lacking a group of cell surface molecules, glycosyl-phosphatidyl-inositol-anchored proteins (GPI-APs). The GPI-AP deficiency in these two hES clones is due to the deficiency in the gene expression of PIG-A (phosphatidyl-inositol-glycan class A), which is required for the first step of GPI synthesis. GPI-AP-deficient hES cells were capable of forming embryoid bodies and initiating cell differentiation into the three embryonic germ layers. However, GPI-AP-deficient hES cells failed to form trophoblasts after differentiation induction by embryoid body formation or by adding exogenous BMP4. The defect in trophoblast formation was due to the lack of GPI-anchored BMP coreceptors, resulting in the impairment of full BMP4 signaling activation in the GPI-AP-deficient hES cells. These data reveal that GPI-AP-enhanced full activation of BMP signaling is required for human trophoblast formation.

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