Nanog is a pluripotency-associated factor expressed in embryonic stem cells and in the epiblast and primordial germ cells of the mouse embryo. We have identified the chick orthologue of Nanog and found that its expression is limited to primordial germ cells in the early embryo and is not found throughout the epiblast. Genomic analysis has shown that Nanog is an amniote-specific gene and is absent from anamniotes and invertebrates. Furthermore, other pluripotency associated genes that are located in close proximity to Nanog in human and mouse are absent from the chick genome. Such observations lead to a scenario of sequential addition of novel genes to a genomic region associated to pluripotency. These results have profound implications for the study of the evolution of pluripotent lineages in the embryo and of vertebrate stem cells.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.