The derivation of ES cells is poorly understood and varies in efficiency between different strains of mice. We have investigated potential differences between embryos of permissive and recalcitrant strains during diapause and ES cell derivation. We found that in diapause embryos of the recalcitrant C57BL/6 and CBA strains, the epiblast failed to expand during the primary explant phase of ES cell derivation, whereas in the permissive 129 strain, it expanded dramatically. Epiblasts from the recalcitrant strains could be expanded by reducing Erk activation. Isolation of 129 epiblasts facilitated very efficient derivation of ES cell lines in serum- and feeder-free conditions, but reduction of Erk activity was required for derivation of ES cells from isolated C57BL/6 or CBA epiblasts. The results suggest that the discrepancy in ES cell derivation efficiency is not attributable merely to variable prodifferentiative effects of the extra-embryonic lineages but also to an intrinsic variability within the epiblast to maintain pluripotency.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.