Not much is known about the molecular and functional features of pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) in rabbits. To address this, we derived and characterized 2 types of rabbit PSCs from the same breed of New Zealand White rabbits: 4 lines of embryonic stem cells (rbESCs), and 3 lines of induced PSCs (rbiPSCs) that were obtained by reprogramming adult skin fibroblasts. All cell lines required fibroblast growth factor 2 for their growth and proliferation. All rbESC lines showed molecular and functional properties typically associated with primed pluripotency. The cell cycle of rbESCs had a prolonged G1 phase and a DNA damage checkpoint before entry into the S phase, which are the 2 features typically associated with the somatic cell cycle. In contrast, the rbiPSC lines exhibited some characteristics of naïve pluripotency, including resistance to single-cell dissociation by trypsin, robust activity of the distal enhancer of the mouse Oct4 gene, and expression of naïve pluripotency-specific genes, as defined in rodents. According to gene expression profiles, rbiPSCs were closer to the rabbit inner cell mass (ICM) than rbESCs. Furthermore, rbiPSCs were capable of colonizing the ICM after aggregation with morulas. Therefore, we propose that rbiPSCs self-renew in an intermediate state between naïve and primed pluripotency, which represents a key step toward the generation of bona fide naïve PSC lines in rabbits.
Keywords: Cell cycle; Embryonic stem cell; Induced pluripotent stem cell; Pluripotency; Rabbit model.