The determination and maintenance of the cell fate is ultimately due to differential gene activity. In the mouse, expression of the transcription factor Oct4 is high in totipotent inner cell mass, germ cells and undifferentiated embryonic stem (ES) cells, but dramatically reduced or extinct upon differentiation. Here, we show that medaka blastula embryos and cells of the ES cell line MES1 are able to activate the Oct4 promoter. Ectopic expression of a fusion gene for beta-galactosidase and neomycin resistance from the Oct4 promoter conferred resistance to G418. G418 selection led to a homogeneous population of undifferentiated ES cells which were able to undergo induced or directed differentiation into various cell types including neuron-like cells and melanocytes. Furthermore, GFP-labeled GOF18geo-MES1 cells after differentiation ablation were able to contribute to a wide variety of organ systems derived from all the three germ layers. Most importantly, we show that drug ablation of differentiation on the basis of Oct4 promoter is a useful tool to improve ES cell cultivation and chimera formation: MES1 cells after differentiation ablation appeared to be better donors than the parental MES1 line, as the permissive number of input donor cells increases from 100 to 200, resulting in an enhanced degree of chimerism. Taken together, some transcription factors and cis-acting regulatory sequences controlling totipotency-specific gene expression appear to be conserved between mammals and fish, and medaka ES cells offer an in vitro system for characterizing the expression of totipotency-specific genes such as putative Oct4 homologs from fish.