Pluripotent cells have the potential to differentiate into all of the cell types of an animal. This unique cell state is governed by an interconnected network of transcription factors. Among these, Oct4 plays an essential role both in the development of pluripotent cells in the embryo and in the self-renewal of its in vitro counterpart, embryonic stem (ES) cells. Furthermore, Oct4 is one of the four Yamanaka factors and its overexpression alone can generate induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Recent reports underscore Oct4 as an essential regulator of opposing cell state transitions, such as pluripotency establishment and differentiation into embryonic germ lineages. Here we discuss these recent studies and the potential mechanisms underlying these contrasting functions of Oct4.
Keywords: cell differentiation; cell state transitions; embryonic stem cells; induced pluripotent stem cells; naïve pluripotency; reprogramming.
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