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Cells Tissues Organs. 2012;195(6):507-23. doi: 10.1159/000329864. Epub 2011 Nov 25.

Induction and selection of Sox17-expressing endoderm cells generated from murine embryonic stem cells.

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Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research Gatersleben, Germany.


Embryonic stem (ES) cells offer a valuable source for generating insulin-producing cells. However, current differentiation protocols often result in heterogeneous cell populations of various developmental stages. Here we show the activin A-induced differentiation of mouse ES cells carrying a homologous dsRed-IRES-puromycin knock-in within the Sox17 locus into the endoderm lineage. Sox17-expressing cells were selected by fluorescence-assisted cell sorting (FACS) and characterized at the transcript and protein level. Treatment of ES cells with high concentrations of activin A for 10 days resulted in up to 19% Sox17-positive cells selected by FACS. Isolated Sox17-positive cells were characterized by defini- tive endoderm-specific Sox17/Cxcr4/Foxa2 transcripts, but lacked pluripotency-associated Oct4 mRNA and protein. The Sox17-expressing cells showed downregulation of extraembryonic endoderm (Sox7, Afp, Sdf1)-, mesoderm (Foxf1, Meox1)- and ectoderm (Pax6, NeuroD6)-specific transcripts. The presence of Hnf4α, Hes1 and Pdx1 mRNA demonstrated the expression of primitive gut/foregut cell-specific markers. Ngn3, Nkx6.1 and Nkx2.2 transcripts in Sox17-positive cells were determined as properties of pancreatic endocrine progenitors. Immunocytochemistry of activin A-induced Sox17-positive embryoid bodies revealed coexpression of Cxcr4 and Foxa2. Moreover, the histochemical demonstration of E-cadherin-, Cxcr4-, Sox9-, Hnf1β- and Ngn3-positive epithelial-like structures underlined the potential of Sox17-positive cells to further differentiate into the pancreatic lineage. By reducing the heterogeneity of the ES cell progeny, Sox17-expressing cells are a suitable model to evaluate the effects of growth and differentiation factors and of culture conditions to delineate the differentiation process for the generation of pancreatic cells in vitro.

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