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Development. 2012 Aug;139(16):2866-77. doi: 10.1242/dev.078519. Epub 2012 Jul 12.

Conversion from mouse embryonic to extra-embryonic endoderm stem cells reveals distinct differentiation capacities of pluripotent stem cell states.

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The Anne McLaren Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine, Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 0SZ, UK.


The inner cell mass of the mouse pre-implantation blastocyst comprises epiblast progenitor and primitive endoderm cells of which cognate embryonic (mESCs) or extra-embryonic (XEN) stem cell lines can be derived. Importantly, each stem cell type retains the defining properties and lineage restriction of their in vivo tissue of origin. Recently, we demonstrated that XEN-like cells arise within mESC cultures. This raises the possibility that mESCs can generate self-renewing XEN cells without the requirement for gene manipulation. We have developed a novel approach to convert mESCs to XEN cells (cXEN) using growth factors. We confirm that the downregulation of the pluripotency transcription factor Nanog and the expression of primitive endoderm-associated genes Gata6, Gata4, Sox17 and Pdgfra are necessary for cXEN cell derivation. This approach highlights an important function for Fgf4 in cXEN cell derivation. Paracrine FGF signalling compensates for the loss of endogenous Fgf4, which is necessary to exit mESC self-renewal, but not for XEN cell maintenance. Our cXEN protocol also reveals that distinct pluripotent stem cells respond uniquely to differentiation promoting signals. cXEN cells can be derived from mESCs cultured with Erk and Gsk3 inhibitors (2i), and LIF, similar to conventional mESCs. However, we find that epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs) derived from the post-implantation embryo are refractory to cXEN cell establishment, consistent with the hypothesis that EpiSCs represent a pluripotent state distinct from mESCs. In all, these findings suggest that the potential of mESCs includes the capacity to give rise to both extra-embryonic and embryonic lineages.

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