A short G1 phase is a characteristic feature of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). To determine if there is a causal relationship between G1 phase restriction and pluripotency, we made use of the Fluorescence Ubiquitination Cell Cycle Indicator (FUCCI) reporter system to FACS-sort ESCs in the different cell cycle phases. Hence, the G1 phase cells appeared to be more susceptible to differentiation, particularly when ESCs self-renewed in the naïve state of pluripotency. Transitions from ground to naïve, then from naïve to primed states of pluripotency were associated with increased durations of the G1 phase, and cyclin E-mediated alteration of the G1/S transition altered the balance between self-renewal and differentiation. LIF withdrawal resulted in a lengthening of the G1 phase in naïve ESCs, which occurred prior to the appearance of early lineage-specific markers, and could be reversed upon LIF supplementation. We concluded that the short G1 phase observed in murine ESCs was a determinant of naïve pluripotency and was partially under the control of LIF signaling.
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