piggyBac transposition reprograms fibroblasts to induced pluripotent stem cells

Nature. 2009 Apr 9;458(7239):766-70. doi: 10.1038/nature07863. Epub 2009 Mar 1.


Transgenic expression of just four defined transcription factors (c-Myc, Klf4, Oct4 and Sox2) is sufficient to reprogram somatic cells to a pluripotent state. The resulting induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells resemble embryonic stem cells in their properties and potential to differentiate into a spectrum of adult cell types. Current reprogramming strategies involve retroviral, lentiviral, adenoviral and plasmid transfection to deliver reprogramming factor transgenes. Although the latter two methods are transient and minimize the potential for insertion mutagenesis, they are currently limited by diminished reprogramming efficiencies. piggyBac (PB) transposition is host-factor independent, and has recently been demonstrated to be functional in various human and mouse cell lines. The PB transposon/transposase system requires only the inverted terminal repeats flanking a transgene and transient expression of the transposase enzyme to catalyse insertion or excision events. Here we demonstrate successful and efficient reprogramming of murine and human embryonic fibroblasts using doxycycline-inducible transcription factors delivered by PB transposition. Stable iPS cells thus generated express characteristic pluripotency markers and succeed in a series of rigorous differentiation assays. By taking advantage of the natural propensity of the PB system for seamless excision, we show that the individual PB insertions can be removed from established iPS cell lines, providing an invaluable tool for discovery. In addition, we have demonstrated the traceless removal of reprogramming factors joined with viral 2A sequences delivered by a single transposon from murine iPS lines. We anticipate that the unique properties of this virus-independent simplification of iPS cell production will accelerate this field further towards full exploration of the reprogramming process and future cell-based therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Reprogramming / genetics*
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Fibroblasts / virology
  • Gene Order
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Kruppel-Like Factor 4
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transgenes / genetics


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • KLF4 protein, human
  • Klf4 protein, mouse
  • Kruppel-Like Factor 4
  • Transcription Factors