Suppression of Erk signalling promotes ground state pluripotency in the mouse embryo

Development
Jennifer NicholsAustin Smith

Abstract

Embryonic stem (ES) cells can be derived and propagated from multiple strains of mouse and rat through application of small-molecule inhibitors of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF)/Erk pathway and of glycogen synthase kinase 3. These conditions shield pluripotent cells from differentiation-inducing stimuli. We investigate the effect of these inhibitors on the development of pluripotent epiblast in intact pre-implantation embryos. We find that blockade of Erk signalling from the 8-cell stage does not impede blastocyst formation but suppresses development of the hypoblast. The size of the inner cell mass (ICM) compartment is not reduced, however. Throughout the ICM, the epiblast-specific marker Nanog is expressed, and in XX embryos epigenetic silencing of the paternal X chromosome is erased. Epiblast identity and pluripotency were confirmed by contribution to chimaeras with germline transmission. These observations indicate that segregation of hypoblast from the bipotent ICM is dependent on FGF/Erk signalling and that in the absence of this signal, the entire ICM can acquire pluripotency. Furthermore, the epiblast does not require paracrine support from the hypoblast. Thus, naïve epiblast and ES cells are in a similar ground sta...Continue Reading

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