Reprogramming to pluripotency is an ancient trait of vertebrate Oct4 and Pou2 proteins

Nat Commun. 2012:3:1279. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2229.


The evolutionary origins of the gene network underlying cellular pluripotency, a central theme in developmental biology, have yet to be elucidated. In mammals, Oct4 is a factor crucial in the reprogramming of differentiated cells into induced pluripotent stem cells. The Oct4 and Pou2 genes evolved from a POU class V gene ancestor, but it is unknown whether pluripotency induced by Oct4 gene activity is a feature specific to mammals or was already present in ancestral vertebrates. Here we report that different vertebrate Pou2 and Oct4 homologues can induce pluripotency in mouse and human fibroblasts and that the inability of zebrafish Pou2 to establish pluripotency is not representative of all Pou2 genes, as medaka Pou2 and axolotl Pou2 are able to reprogram somatic cells into pluripotent cells. Therefore, our results indicate that induction of pluripotency is not a feature specific to mammals, but existed in the Oct4/Pou2 common ancestral vertebrate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambystoma mexicanum / embryology
  • Ambystoma mexicanum / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / physiology*
  • Oryzias / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Vertebrates / physiology*
  • Zebrafish / physiology
  • Zebrafish Proteins / physiology*


  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3
  • Pou5f1 protein, mouse
  • Pou5f3 protein, zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE21302