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Stem Cells Dev. 2017 Jun 15;26(12):876-887. doi: 10.1089/scd.2016.0346. Epub 2017 Mar 27.

Expression of Pluripotency Markers in Nonpluripotent Human Neural Stem and Progenitor Cells.

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1 Division of Neurodegeneration, Center for Alzheimer Research, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet , Stockholm, Sweden .
2 Neurobiology Research, Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Southern Denmark , Odense, Denmark .
3 Division of Molecular Neurobiology, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet , Stockholm, Sweden .
4 Department of Clinical Sciences, Intervention and Technology, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge , Stockholm, Sweden .
5 Stockholms Sjukhem , Stockholm, Sweden .


Nonpluripotent neural progenitor cells (NPCs) derived from the human fetal central nervous system were found to express a number of messenger RNA (mRNA) species associated with pluripotency, such as NANOG, REX1, and OCT4. The expression was restricted to small subpopulations of NPCs. In contrast to pluripotent stem cells, there was no coexpression of the pluripotency-associated genes studied. Although the expression of these genes rapidly declined during the in vitro differentiation of NPCs, we found no evidence that the discrete expression was associated with the markers of multipotent neural stem cells (CD133+/CD24lo), the capacity of sphere formation, or high cell proliferation rates. The rate of cell death among NPCs expressing pluripotency-associated genes was also similar to that of other NPCs. Live cell imaging showed that NANOG- and REX1-expressing NPCs continuously changed morphology, as did the nonexpressing cells. Depletion experiments showed that after the complete removal of the subpopulations of NANOG- and REX1-expressing NPCs, the expression of these genes appeared in other NPCs within a few days. The percentage of NANOG- and REX1-expressing cells returned to that observed before depletion. Our results are best explained by a model in which there is stochastic transient expression of pluripotency-associated genes in proliferating NPCs.


neural stem cells; pluripotency markers; stem cell heterogeneity

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