Pluripotent stem cells act as an excellent cell source for disease therapy because of its specific characteristics of self-renewal and differentiation. Pluripotent stem cells are heterogeneous, consisting of naive stem cells as well as primed epiblast stem cells. However, the strategies and mechanisms of maintaining naive pluripotent stem cells remain unclear. In this study, we found that folic acid (FA) sustained mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) pluripotency and enabled long-term maintenance of the naive state of ESCs under CHIR99021 conditions. Mechanistic experiments showed that STAT3 pathway partially mediated the effect of FA after which the interaction between STAT3 and importin α5 was enhanced. Meanwhile, MEK/ERK signaling also acted downstream of FA in maintaining ESC pluripotency. Furthermore, FA significantly promoted mouse somatic cell reprogramming. Overall, our study identified an effective chemical condition for maintaining homogeneous ESCs and highlighted the important roles of LIF/STAT3 and MEK/ERK signaling in naive ESC pluripotency.
Keywords: ESC; LIF/STAT3; MEK/ERK; folic acid; reprogramming.