Defining the nature of human pluripotent stem cell progeny

Cell Res. 2012 Jan;22(1):178-93. doi: 10.1038/cr.2011.133. Epub 2011 Aug 16.


While it is clear that human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) can differentiate to generate a panoply of various cell types, it is unknown how closely in vitro development mirrors that which occurs in vivo. To determine whether human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) make equivalent progeny, and whether either makes cells that are analogous to tissue-derived cells, we performed comprehensive transcriptome profiling of purified PSC derivatives and their tissue-derived counterparts. Expression profiling demonstrated that hESCs and hiPSCs make nearly identical progeny for the neural, hepatic, and mesenchymal lineages, and an absence of re-expression from exogenous reprogramming factors in hiPSC progeny. However, when compared to a tissue-derived counterpart, the progeny of both hESCs and hiPSCs maintained expression of a subset of genes normally associated with early mammalian development, regardless of the type of cell generated. While pluripotent genes (OCT4, SOX2, REX1, and NANOG) appeared to be silenced immediately upon differentiation from hPSCs, genes normally unique to early embryos (LIN28A, LIN28B, DPPA4, and others) were not fully silenced in hPSC derivatives. These data and evidence from expression patterns in early human fetal tissue (3-16 weeks of development) suggest that the differentiated progeny of hPSCs are reflective of very early human development (< 6 weeks). These findings provide support for the idea that hPSCs can serve as useful in vitro models of early human development, but also raise important issues for disease modeling and the clinical application of hPSC derivatives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cellular Reprogramming
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Silencing
  • Germ Layers / cytology
  • Germ Layers / embryology
  • Germ Layers / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / genetics
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / metabolism
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / genetics
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transfection


  • Lin28A protein, human
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3
  • POU5F1 protein, human
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • SOX2 protein, human
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors