Core Pluripotency Factors Directly Regulate Metabolism in Embryonic Stem Cell to Maintain Pluripotency

Stem Cells. 2015 Sep;33(9):2699-711. doi: 10.1002/stem.2073. Epub 2015 Jun 23.


Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) have distinct metabolic properties that support their metabolic and energetic needs and affect their stemness. In particular, high glycolysis is critical for the generation and maintenance of PSCs. However, it is unknown how PSCs maintain and acquire this metabolic signature. In this study, we found that core pluripotency factors regulate glycolysis directly by controlling the expression of glycolytic enzymes. Specifically, Oct4 directly governs Hk2 and Pkm2, which are important glycolytic enzymes that determine the rate of glycolytic flux. The overexpression of Hk2 and Pkm2 sustains high levels of glycolysis during embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation. Moreover, the maintenance of high glycolysis levels by Hk2 and Pkm2 overexpression hampers differentiation and preserves the pluripotency of ESCs in the absence of leukemia inhibitory factor. Overall, our study identifies a direct molecular connection between core pluripotency factors and ESC metabolic signatures and demonstrates the significance of metabolism in cell fate determination.

Keywords: Core pluripotency factors; Embryonic stem cells; Glycolysis; Hexokinase 2; Metabolism; Oct4; Pyruvate kinase M2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Glycolysis / physiology*
  • Hexokinase / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / biosynthesis*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Thyroid Hormones / biosynthesis*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3
  • POU5F1 protein, human
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • thyroid hormone-binding proteins
  • Hexokinase
  • hexokinase 2, mouse