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Free access

A S Devika, Wasco Wruck, James Adjaye and Smita Sudheer

Pluripotency is the developmental potential of a cell to give rise to all the cells in the three embryonic germ layers, including germline cells. Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) can be embryonic, germ cell or somatic cell in origin and can adopt alternative states of pluripotency: naïve or primed. Although several reports have described the differentiation of PSCs to extra-embryonic lineages, such as primitive endoderm and trophectoderm, this is still debated among scientists in the field. In this review, we integrate the recent findings on pluripotency among mammals, alternative states of pluripotency, signalling pathways associated with maintaining pluripotency and the nature of PSCs derived from various mammals. PSCs from humans and mouse have been the most extensively studied. In other mammalian species, more research is required for understanding the optimum in vitro conditions required for either achieving pluripotency or preservation of distinct pluripotent states. A comparative high-throughput analysis of PSCs of genes expressed in naïve or primed states of humans, nonhuman primates (NHP) and rodents, based on publicly available datasets revealed the probable prominence of seven signalling pathways common among these species, irrespective of the states of pluripotency. We conclude by highlighting some of the unresolved questions and future directions of research on pluripotency in mammals.

Free access

K Klisch, D A Contreras, X Sun, R Brehm, M Bergmann and R Alberio

Spermatogonia are a potential source of adult pluripotent stem cells and can be used for testis germ cell transplantation. Markers for the isolation of these cells are of great importance for biomedical applications. Primordial germ cells and prepubertal spermatogonia in many species can be identified by their binding of Dolichos biflorus agglutinin (DBA). This lectin binds to two different types of glycans, which are α-linked N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNac) and β-linked GalNac, if this is part of the Sda or GM2 glycotopes. We used the MAB CT1, which is specific for the trisaccharides motif NeuAcα2–3(GalNAcβ1–4)Galβ1-, which is common to both Sda and GM2 glycotopes, to further define the glycosylation of DBA binding germ cells. In porcine embryos, CT1 bound to migratory germ cells and gonocytes. CT1/DBA double staining showed that the mesonephros was CT1 negative but contained DBA-positive cells. Gonocytes in the female gonad became CT1 negative, while male gonocytes remained CT1 positive. In immunohistological double staining of cattle, pig, horse and llama testis, DBA and CT1 staining was generally colocalised in a subpopulation of spermatogonia. These spermatogonia were mainly single, sometimes paired or formed chains of up to four cells. Our data show that the Sda/GM2 glycotope is present in developing germ cells and spermatogonia in several species. Owing to the narrower specificity of the CT1 antibody, compared with DBA, the former is likely to be a useful tool for labelling and isolation of these cells.

Free access

B Corradetti, A Meucci, D Bizzaro, F Cremonesi and A Lange Consiglio

Amnion and amniotic fluid (AF) are noncontroversial and inexhaustible sources of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that can be harvested noninvasively at low cost. As in humans, also in veterinary field, presumptive stem cells derived from these tissues reveal as promising candidates for disease treatment, specifically for their plasticity, their reduced immunogenicity, and high anti-inflammatory potential. The aim of this work is to obtain and characterize, for the first time in bovine species, presumptive MSCs from the epithelial portion of the amnion (AECs) and from the AF (AF-MSCs) to be used for clinical applications. AECs display a polygonal morphology, whereas AF-MSCs exhibit a fibroblastic-like morphology only starting from the second passage, being heterogeneous during the primary culture. For both lines, the proliferative ability has been found constant over the ten passages studied and AECs show a statistically lower (P<0.05) doubling time with respect to AF-MSCs. AECs express MSC-specific markers (ITGB1 (CD29), CD44, ALCAM (CD166), ENG (CD105), and NT5E (CD73)) from P1 to P3; in AF-MSCs, only ITGB1, CD44, and ALCAM mRNAs are detected; NT5E is expressed from P2 and ENG has not been found at any passage. AF-MSCs and AECs are positive for the pluripotent markers (POU5F1 (OCT4) and MYC (c-Myc)) and lack of the hematopoietic markers. When appropriately induced, both cell lines are capable of differentiating into ectodermal and mesodermal lineages. This study contributes to reinforce the emerging importance of these cells as ideal tools in veterinary medicine. A deeper evaluation of the immunological properties needs to be performed in order to better understand their role in cellular therapy.

Free access

Sharmila A Bapat

The isolation and identification of stem-like cells in solid tumors or cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been exciting developments of the last decade, although these rare populations had been earlier identified in leukemia. CSC biology necessitates a detailed delineation of normal stem cell functioning and maintenance of homeostasis within the organ. Ovarian CSC biology has unfortunately not benefited from a pre-established knowledge of stem cell lineage demarcation and functioning in the normal organ. In the absence of such information, some of the classical parameters such as long-term culture-initiating assays to isolate stem cell clones from tumors, screening and evaluation of other epithelial stem cell surface markers, dye efflux, and label retention have been applied toward the putative isolation of CSCs from ovarian tumors. The present review presents an outline of the various approaches developed so far and the various perspectives revealed that are now required to be dealt with toward better disease management.

Free access

Shosei Yoshida

Spermatogenesis in mice and other mammalians is supported by a robust stem cell system. Stem cells maintain themselves and continue to produce progeny that will differentiate into sperm over a long period. The pioneering studies conducted from the 1950s to the 1970s, which were based largely on extensive morphological analyses, have established the fundamentals of mammalian spermatogenesis and its stem cells. The prevailing so-called Asingle (As) model, which was originally established in 1971, proposes that singly isolated As spermatogonia are in fact the stem cells. In 1994, the first functional stem cell assay was established based on the formation of repopulating colonies after transplantation in germ cell-depleted host testes, which substantially accelerated the understanding of spermatogenic stem cells. However, because testicular tissues are dissociated into single-cell suspension before transplantation, it was impossible to evaluate the As and other classical models solely by this technique. From 2007 onwards, functional assessment of stem cells without destroying the tissue architecture has become feasible by means of pulse-labeling and live-imaging strategies. Results obtained from these experiments have been challenging the classical thought of stem cells, in which stem cells are a limited number of specialized cells undergoing asymmetric division to produce one self-renewing and one differentiating daughter cells. In contrast, the emerging data suggest that an extended and heterogeneous population of cells exhibiting different degrees of self-renewing and differentiating probabilities forms a reversible, flexible, and stochastic stem cell system as a population. These features may lead to establishment of a more universal principle on stem cells that is shared by other systems.

Free access

Ewart W Kuijk, Ben Colenbrander and Bernard A J Roelen

Cell lines from neonate porcine testis were cultured and characterized and the effect of growth factors were investigated, in order to determine the requirements for the establishment of porcine male germ cell lines. In primary cultures, three different colony types with distinctive morphologies could be recognized. From colonies resembling mouse spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), two cell lines were derived and maintained for nine passages after which proliferation stopped. Growth of these cell lines depended on the growth factors leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), epidermal growth factor (EGF), glial derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), and fibroblast growth factor (FGF). In both cell lines NANOG, promyelocytic leukemia zinc-finger (PLZF), and EPCAM, were expressed at higher levels and GFR A 1, ITGA6, and THY1 at lower levels than in neonate porcine testis. Primary cultures of neonate pig testis were subjected to a factorial design of the growth factors LIF, GDNF, EGF, and FGF. EGF and FGF had a positive effect on the number and size of the SSC-like colonies. Addition of EGF and FGF to primary cell cultures of neonate pig testis affected the expression of NANOG, PLZF, POU5F1, and GATA4, whereas effects of LIF or GDNF could not be detected. FGF decreased the expression levels of NANOG, a marker for pluripotency also expressed in neonatal porcine male germ cells. FGF decreased expression of PLZF and enhanced the expression of pluripotency-related gene POU5F1 and Sertoli cell marker GATA4. EGF had a positive effect on PLZF expression levels and counteracted the positive effect of FGF on GATA4 expression. These results suggest that FGF can impede successful derivation of porcine SSCs from neonate pig testis.

Open access

B Fereydouni, C Drummer, N Aeckerle, S Schlatt and R Behr

Oogonia are characterized by diploidy and mitotic proliferation. Human and mouse oogonia express several factors such as OCT4, which are characteristic of pluripotent cells. In human, almost all oogonia enter meiosis between weeks 9 and 22 of prenatal development or undergo mitotic arrest and subsequent elimination from the ovary. As a consequence, neonatal human ovaries generally lack oogonia. The same was found in neonatal ovaries of the rhesus monkey, a representative of the old world monkeys (Catarrhini). By contrast, proliferating oogonia were found in adult prosimians (now called Strepsirrhini), which is a group of ‘lower’ primates. The common marmoset monkey (Callithrix jacchus) belongs to the new world monkeys (Platyrrhini) and is increasingly used in reproductive biology and stem cell research. However, ovarian development in the marmoset monkey has not been widely investigated. Herein, we show that the neonatal marmoset ovary has an extremely immature histological appearance compared with the human ovary. It contains numerous oogonia expressing the pluripotency factors OCT4A, SALL4, and LIN28A (LIN28). The pluripotency factor-positive germ cells also express the proliferation marker MKI67 (Ki-67), which has previously been shown in the human ovary to be restricted to premeiotic germ cells. Together, the data demonstrate the primitiveness of the neonatal marmoset ovary compared with human. This study may introduce the marmoset monkey as a non-human primate model to experimentally study the aspects of primate primitive gonad development, follicle assembly, and germ cell biology in vivo.

Restricted access

Zhenzhen Zhang, Changjiu He, Lu Zhang, Tianqi Zhu, Dongying Lv, Guangdong Li, Yukun Song, Jing Wang, Hao Wu, Pengyun Ji and Guoshi Liu

α-Ketoglutarate (α-KG) is an intermediary metabolite in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and functions to inhibit ATPase and maintain the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells (ESCs); however, little is known regarding the effects of α-KG on the development of preimplantation embryos. Herein, we report that α-KG (150 μM) treatment significantly promoted the blastocyst rate, the number of inner cell mass (ICM) cells and foetal growth after embryo transfer. Mechanistic studies revealed two important pathways involved in the α-KG effects on embryo development. First, α-KG modulates mitochondria function by inducing relatively low ATP production without modification of mitochondrial copy number. The relatively low energy metabolism preserves the pluripotency and competence of the ICM. Second, α-KG modifies epigenetics in embryos cultured in vitro by affecting the activity of the DNA demethylation enzyme TET and the DNA methylation gene Dnmt3a to increase the ratio of 5hmC/5mC ratio. Elevation of the 5hmC/5mC ratio not only promotes the pluripotency of the ICM but also leads to a methylation level in an in vitro embryo close to that in an in vivo embryo. All these functions of α-KG collectively contribute to an increase in the number of ICM cells, leading to greater adaptation of cultured embryos to in vitro conditions and promoting foetal growth after embryo transfer. Our findings provide basic knowledge regarding the mechanisms by which α-KG affects embryo development and cell differentiation.

Free access

M Godmann, C Kosan and R Behr

Krüppel-like factor 4 (KLF4) is a zinc finger transcription factor critically involved in cell proliferation, differentiation, and carcinogenesis. Recently, KLF4 has also been used for the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells. In this study, we analyzed Klf4 expression in different mouse tissues using northern blot analysis and immunohistochemistry. Focusing on the male and female reproductive tract, we showed for the first time that KLF4 is expressed in the epithelia of the murine uterus and the vagina. In the male reproductive tract, we detected KLF4 in the epithelia of the epididymis, ductus deferens, coagulating gland, and the penis. As KLF4 is strongly inducible by FSH signaling in Sertoli cells and as this transcription factor is also involved in Sertoli cell development, we employed the mouse Sertoli cell line TM4 as a model system to investigate i) the induction kinetics of Klf4 upon activation of the cAMP/protein kinase A pathway by forskolin and ii) the effects of Klf4 induction on TM4 cell cycle progression. Interestingly, Klf4 mRNA and protein were rapidly but transiently induced, reaching peak levels after 90–120 min and declining to basal levels within 4 h. Compared with the inducible cAMP early repressor, an immediate early response gene, the induction kinetics of Klf4 is much faster. In conclusion, Klf4 is an immediate early gene in TM4 cells and its expression in several epithelia of the male and female reproductive tract suggests an important role of Klf4 in mouse reproductive functions.

Open access

Catherine E Forristal, Kate L Wright, Neil A Hanley, Richard O C Oreffo and Franchesca D Houghton

Human embryonic stem (hES) cells are routinely cultured under atmospheric, 20% oxygen tensions but are derived from embryos which reside in a 3–5% oxygen (hypoxic) environment. Maintenance of oxygen homeostasis is critical to ensure sufficient levels for oxygen-dependent processes. This study investigates the importance of specific hypoxia inducible factors (HIFs) in regulating the hypoxic responses of hES cells. We report that culture at 20% oxygen decreased hES cell proliferation and resulted in a significantly reduced expression of SOX2, NANOG and POU5F1 (OCT4) mRNA as well as POU5F1 protein compared with hypoxic conditions. HIF1A protein was not expressed at 20% oxygen and displayed only a transient, nuclear localisation at 5% oxygen. HIF2A (EPAS1) and HIF3A displayed a cytoplasmic localisation during initial hypoxic culture but translocated to the nucleus following long-term culture at 5% oxygen and were significantly upregulated compared with cells cultured at 20% oxygen. Silencing of HIF2A resulted in a significant decrease in both hES cell proliferation and POU5F1, SOX2 and NANOG protein expression while the early differentiation marker, SSEA1, was concomitantly increased. HIF3A upregulated HIF2A and prevented HIF1A expression with the knockdown of HIF3A resulting in the reappearance of HIF1A protein. In summary, these data demonstrate that a low oxygen tension is preferential for the maintenance of a highly proliferative, pluripotent population of hES cells. While HIF3A was found to regulate the expression of both HIF1A and HIF2A, it is HIF2A which regulates hES cell pluripotency as well as proliferation under hypoxic conditions.