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Mol Hum Reprod. 2012 Dec;18(12):605-12. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gas032. Epub 2012 Aug 29.

False-positive antibody signals for the pluripotency factor OCT4A (POU5F1) in testis-derived cells may lead to erroneous data and misinterpretations.

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Stem Cell Biology Unit, German Primate Center, Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Kellnerweg 4, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Octamer-binding protein 4 (OCT4) is a key player in pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cells and is essential for the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells. Recently, several reports indicated the spontaneous recovery of pluripotency in cultured adult human testis-derived cells. This was evidenced also by the detection of OCT4 using antibodies. However, the soundness of some data was recently put into question. During our attempts to derive pluripotent cells from the common marmoset monkey (Callithrix jacchus) testis, we obtained inconsistent data which prompted us to analyze deeper the characteristics of three independent OCT4 antibodies that were used in numerous published studies that received greatest attention. All antibodies detected OCT4 by immunofluorescence (IF) in a marmoset monkey ES cell line. Two of the three OCT4 antibodies also gave robust nuclear signals in testis-derived cells. However, the latter cells expressed no OCT4 mRNA as revealed by quantitative RT-PCR and turned out to be mesenchymal cells. When tested in western blot analyses, all antibodies detected heterologously expressed marmoset monkey OCT4 protein. But, importantly, those antibodies that resulted in non-specific signals in IF also showed additional non-specific bands in western blots. In summary, some commercially available OCT4 antibodies result in false-positive signals which may provoke erroneous conclusions when used in studies aiming at the generation of pluripotent cells in vitro. We conclude that (i) antibodies must be carefully characterized before use to prevent misleading observations and (ii) OCT4 expression must be monitored by a second antibody-independent method.

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