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Genes Dev. 2011 Feb 1;25(3):238-50. doi: 10.1101/gad.607311. Epub 2011 Jan 18.

Pluripotency factors regulate definitive endoderm specification through eomesodermin.

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Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


Understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling early cell fate decisions in mammals is a major objective toward the development of robust methods for the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into clinically relevant cell types. Here, we used human embryonic stem cells and mouse epiblast stem cells to study specification of definitive endoderm in vitro. Using a combination of whole-genome expression and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) deep sequencing (ChIP-seq) analyses, we established an hierarchy of transcription factors regulating endoderm specification. Importantly, the pluripotency factors NANOG, OCT4, and SOX2 have an essential function in this network by actively directing differentiation. Indeed, these transcription factors control the expression of EOMESODERMIN (EOMES), which marks the onset of endoderm specification. In turn, EOMES interacts with SMAD2/3 to initiate the transcriptional network governing endoderm formation. Together, these results provide for the first time a comprehensive molecular model connecting the transition from pluripotency to endoderm specification during mammalian development.

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