Stem cells, stress, metabolism and cancer: a drama in two Octs

Trends Biochem Sci. 2009 Oct;34(10):491-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2009.06.003. Epub 2009 Sep 4.


It is a classic story of two related transcription factors. Oct4 is a potent regulator of pluripotency during early mammalian embryonic development, and is notable for its ability to convert adult somatic cells to pluripotency. The widely expressed Oct1 protein shares significant homology with Oct4, binds to the same sequences, regulates common target genes, and shares common modes of upstream regulation, including the ability to respond to cellular stress. Both proteins are also associated with malignancy, yet Oct1 cannot substitute for Oct4 in the generation of pluripotency. The molecular underpinnings of these phenomena are emerging, as are the consequences for adult stem cells and cancer, and thereby hangs a tale.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-1 / classification
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-1 / genetics
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-1 / metabolism*
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / classification
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / genetics
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological*


  • Octamer Transcription Factor-1
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3