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PLoS One. 2016 Jun 23;11(6):e0158046. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0158046. eCollection 2016.

Reactivation of Endogenous Genes and Epigenetic Remodeling Are Barriers for Generating Transgene-Free Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells in Pig.

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Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, Animal Biotechnology Major, and Research Institute of Agriculture and Life Science, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.
Division of Animal Sciences and Bond Life Sciences Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, United States of America.
Department of Biological Resources and Technology, Yonsei University, Wonju, Korea.
LG Life Sciences, R&D Park, Daejeon, Republic of Korea.
Institute of Green Bio Science and Technology, Seoul National University, Pyeong Chang, Kangwon do, Korea.


Cellular reprogramming of committed cells into a pluripotent state can be induced by ectopic expression of genes such as OCT4, SOX2, KLF4, and MYC. Reprogrammed cells can be maintained by activating endogenous pluripotent networks without transgene expression. Although various research groups have attempted to generate pig induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), authentic iPSCs have not be obtained, instead showing dependence on transgene expression. In this study, iPSCs were derived from porcine fetal fibroblasts via drug-inducible vectors carrying human transcription factors (OCT4, SOX2, KLF4, and MYC). Therefore, this study investigated characteristics of iPSCs and reprogramming mechanisms in pig. The iPSCs were stably maintained over an extended period with potential in vitro differentiation into three germ layers. In addition, the pluripotent state of iPSCs was regulated by modulating culture conditions. They showed naive- or primed-like pluripotent states in LIF or bFGF supplemented culture conditions, respectively. However, iPSCs could not be maintained without ectopic expression of transgenes. The cultured iPSCs expressed endogenous transcription factors such as OCT4 and SOX2, but not NANOG (a known gateway to complete reprogramming). Endogenous genes related to mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (DPPA2, CDH1, EPCAM, and OCLN) were not sufficiently reactivated, as measured by qPCR. DNA methylation analysis for promoters of OCT4, NANOG, and XIST showed that epigenetic reprogramming did not occur in female iPSCs. Based on our results, expression of exogenous genes could not sufficiently activate the essential endogenous genes and remodel the epigenetic milieu to achieve faithful pluripotency in pig. Accordingly, investigating iPSCs could help us improve and develop reprogramming methods by understanding reprogramming mechanisms in pig.

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