Pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cells have the potential to form teratomas composed of derivatives from all three germ layers in animal models. This tumorigenic potential prevents clinical translation of ES cell research. In order to understand the biology and physiology of teratoma formation, we investigated the influence of undifferentiated ES cell number, migration, and long-term follow up after transplantation. Murine ES cells were stably transduced with a self-inactivating (SIN) lentiviral vector with a constitutive ubiquitin promoter driving a double-fusion (DF) reporter gene that consists of firefly luciferase and enhanced green fluorescent protein (Fluc-eGFP). To assess effects of cell numbers, varying numbers of ES-DF cells (1, 10, 100, 1,000, and 10,000) were injected subcutaneously into the dorsal regions of adult nude mice. To assess cell migration, 1 x 10(6) ES-DF cells were injected intramyocardially into adult Sv129 mice, and leakage to other extracardiac sites was monitored. To assess effects of long-term engraftment, 1 x 10(4) ES-DF cells were injected intramyocardially into adult nude rats, and cell survival response was monitored for 10 months. Our results show that ES-DF cells caused extracardiac teratoma in both immunocompetent and immunodeficient hosts; the lowest number of undifferentiated ES cells capable of causing teratoma was 500-1,000; and long-term engraftment could be shown for >300 days. Collectively, these results illustrate the potent tumorigenic potential of ES cells, which presents an enormous obstacle for future clinical studies.