Nanog is dispensable for the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells

Curr Biol. 2014 Feb 3;24(3):347-50. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.12.050. Epub 2014 Jan 23.


Cellular reprogramming from somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can be achieved through forced expression of the transcription factors Oct4, Klf4, Sox2, and c-Myc (OKSM) [1-4]. These factors, in combination with environmental cues, induce a stable intrinsic pluripotency network that confers indefinite self-renewal capacity on iPSCs. In addition to Oct4 and Sox2, the homeodomain-containing transcription factor Nanog is an integral part of the pluripotency network [5-11]. Although Nanog expression is not required for the maintenance of pluripotent stem cells, it has been reported to be essential for the establishment of both embryonic stem cells (ESCs) from blastocysts and iPSCs from somatic cells [10, 12]. Here we revisit the role of Nanog in direct reprogramming. Surprisingly, we find that Nanog is dispensable for iPSC formation under optimized culture conditions. We further document that Nanog-deficient iPSCs are transcriptionally highly similar to wild-type iPSCs and support the generation of teratomas and chimeric mice. Lastly, we provide evidence that the presence of ascorbic acid in the culture media is critical for overcoming the previously observed reprogramming block of Nanog knockout cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Reprogramming / drug effects
  • Cellular Reprogramming / physiology*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nanog Homeobox Protein
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nanog Homeobox Protein
  • Nanog protein, mouse
  • Ascorbic Acid