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Toshihiko Ezashi and Kazuhiko Imakawa

Once interferon-tau (IFNT) had been identified as a type I IFN in sheep and cattle and its functions were characterized, numerous studies were conducted to elucidate the transcriptional regulation of this gene family. Transfection studies performed largely with human choriocarcinoma cell lines identified regulatory regions of the IFNT gene that appeared responsible for trophoblast-specific expression. The key finding was the recognition that the transcription factor ETS2 bound to a proximal region within the 5′UTR of a bovine IFNT and acted as a strong transactivator. Soon after other transcription factors were identified as cooperative partners. The ETS2-binding site and the nearby AP1 site enable response to intracellular signaling from maternal uterine factors. The AP1 site also serves as a GATA-binding site in one of the bovine IFNT genes. The homeobox-containing transcription factor, DLX3, augments IFNT expression combinatorially with ETS2. CDX2 has also been identified as transactivator that binds to a separate site upstream of the main ETS2 enhancer site. CDX2 participates in IFNT epigenetic regulation by modifying histone acetylation status of the gene. The IFNT downregulation at the time of the conceptus attachment to the uterine endometrium appears correlated with the increased EOMES expression and the loss of other transcription coactivators. Altogether, the studies of transcriptional control of IFNT have provided mechanistic evidence of the regulatory framework of trophoblast-specific expression and critical expression pattern for maternal recognition of pregnancy.

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R Michael Roberts, Kyle M Loh, Mitsuyoshi Amita, Andreia S Bernardo, Katsuyuki Adachi, Andrei P Alexenko, Danny J Schust, Laura C Schulz, Bhanu Prakash V L Telugu, Toshihiko Ezashi, and Roger A Pedersen

It is imperative to unveil the full range of differentiated cell types into which human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) can develop. The need is twofold: it will delimit the therapeutic utility of these stem cells and is necessary to place their position accurately in the developmental hierarchy of lineage potential. Accumulated evidence suggested that hPSC could develop in vitro into an extraembryonic lineage (trophoblast (TB)) that is typically inaccessible to pluripotent embryonic cells during embryogenesis. However, whether these differentiated cells are truly authentic TB has been challenged. In this debate, we present a case for and a case against TB differentiation from hPSCs. By analogy to other differentiation systems, our debate is broadly applicable, as it articulates higher and more challenging standards for judging whether a given cell type has been genuinely produced from hPSC differentiation.