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Stem Cell Res. 2007 Oct;1(1):45-60. doi: 10.1016/j.scr.2007.09.002. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

Differentiation is coupled to changes in the cell cycle regulatory apparatus of human embryonic stem cells.

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Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Mouse embryonic stem cells (mESC) exhibit cell cycle properties entirely distinct from those of somatic cells. Here we investigated the cell cycle characteristics of human embryonic stem cells (hESC). HESC could be sorted into populations based on the expression level of the cell surface stem cell marker GCTM-2. Compared to mESC, a significantly higher proportion of hESC (GCTM-2(+) Oct-4(+) cells) resided in G(1) and retained G(1)-phase-specific hypophosphorylated retinoblastoma protein (pRb). We showed that suppression of traverse through G(1) is sufficient to promote hESC differentiation. Like mESC, hESC expressed cyclin E constitutively, were negative for D-type cyclins, and did not respond to CDK-4 inhibition. By contrast, cyclin A expression was periodic in hESC and coincided with S and G(2)/M phase progression. FGF-2 acted solely to sustain hESC pluripotency rather than to promote cell cycle progression or inhibit apoptosis. Differentiation increased G(1)-phase content, reinstated cyclin D activity, and restored the proliferative response to FGF-2. Treatment with CDK-2 inhibitor delayed hESC in G(1) and S phase, resulting in accumulation of cells with hypophosphorylated pRb, GCTM-2, and Oct-4 and, interestingly, a second pRb(+) GCTM-2(+) subpopulation lacking Oct-4. We discuss evidence for a G(1)-specific, pRb-dependent restriction checkpoint in hESC closely associated with the regulation of pluripotency.

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