Repression of Nanog gene transcription by Tcf3 limits embryonic stem cell self-renewal

Mol Cell Biol. 2006 Oct;26(20):7479-91. doi: 10.1128/MCB.00368-06. Epub 2006 Aug 7.


The dual function of stem cells requires them not only to form new stem cells through self-renewal but also to form lineage-committed cells through differentiation. Embryonic stem cells (ESC), which are derived from the blastocyst inner cell mass, retain properties of self-renewal and the potential for lineage commitment. To balance self-renewal and differentiation, ESC must carefully control the levels of several transcription factors, including Nanog, Sox2, and Oct4. While molecular mechanisms promoting transcription of these genes have been described, mechanisms preventing excessive levels in self-renewing ESC remain unknown. By examining the function of the TCF family of transcription factors in ESC, we have found that Tcf3 is necessary to limit the steady-state levels of Nanog mRNA, protein, and promoter activity in self-renewing ESC. Chromatin immunoprecipitation and promoter reporter assays showed that Tcf3 bound to a promoter regulatory region of the Nanog gene and repressed its transcriptional activity in ESC through a Groucho interaction domain-dependent process. The absence of Tcf3 caused delayed differentiation of ESC in vitro as elevated Nanog levels persisted through 5 days of embryoid body formation. These new data support a model wherein Tcf3-mediated control of Nanog levels allows stem cells to balance the creation of lineage-committed and undifferentiated cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nanog Homeobox Protein
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • TCF Transcription Factors / deficiency
  • TCF Transcription Factors / genetics
  • TCF Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factor 7-Like 1 Protein
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nanog Homeobox Protein
  • Nanog protein, mouse
  • TCF Transcription Factors
  • Tcf7l1 protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factor 7-Like 1 Protein