Differences between human and mouse embryonic stem cells

Dev Biol. 2004 May 15;269(2):360-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2003.12.034.


We compared gene expression profiles of mouse and human ES cells by immunocytochemistry, RT-PCR, and membrane-based focused cDNA array analysis. Several markers that in concert could distinguish undifferentiated ES cells from their differentiated progeny were identified. These included known markers such as SSEA antigens, OCT3/4, SOX-2, REX-1 and TERT, as well as additional markers such as UTF-1, TRF1, TRF2, connexin43, and connexin45, FGFR-4, ABCG-2, and Glut-1. A set of negative markers that confirm the absence of differentiation was also developed. These include genes characteristic of trophoectoderm, markers of germ layers, and of more specialized progenitor cells. While the expression of many of the markers was similar in mouse and human cells, significant differences were found in the expression of vimentin, beta-III tubulin, alpha-fetoprotein, eomesodermin, HEB, ARNT, and FoxD3 as well as in the expression of the LIF receptor complex LIFR/IL6ST (gp130). Profound differences in cell cycle regulation, control of apoptosis, and cytokine expression were uncovered using focused microarrays. The profile of gene expression observed in H1 cells was similar to that of two other human ES cell lines tested (line I-6 and clonal line-H9.2) and to feeder-free subclones of H1, H7, and H9, indicating that the observed differences between human and mouse ES cells were species-specific rather than arising from differences in culture conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Leukemia Inhibitory Factor Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Cytokine / physiology
  • Receptors, OSM-LIF
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction
  • Species Specificity
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • LIFR protein, human
  • Leukemia Inhibitory Factor Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Lifr protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Cytokine
  • Receptors, OSM-LIF