The Oct4 protein, encoded by the Pou5f1 gene was the very first master gene, discovered 25 years ago, to be absolutely required for the stemness properties of murine and primate embryonic stem cells. This transcription factor, which has also been shown to be essential for somatic cell reprogrammation, displays various functions depending upon its level of expression and has been quoted as a "rheostat" gene. Oct4 protein is in complexes with many different partners and its activity depends upon fine post-translational modifications. This review aims at revisiting some properties of this protein, which has not yet delivered all its potentialities.
Keywords: Oct4/ Pou5f1; cancer stem cells; cell lineages; embryonic stem cells; pluripotency.