Although human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) were first derived almost 20 years ago, it was only recently acknowledged that they share closer molecular and functional identity to postimplantation lineage-primed murine epiblast stem cells than to naïve preimplantation inner cell mass-derived mouse ESCs (mESCs). A myriad of transcriptional, epigenetic, biochemical, and metabolic attributes have now been described that distinguish naïve and primed pluripotent states in both rodents and humans. Conventional hESCs and human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) appear to lack many of the defining hallmarks of naïve mESCs. These include important features of the naïve ground state murine epiblast, such as an open epigenetic architecture, reduced lineage-primed gene expression, and chimera and germline competence following injection into a recipient blastocyst-stage embryo. Several transgenic and chemical methods were recently reported that appear to revert conventional human PSCs to mESC-like ground states. However, it remains unclear if subtle deviations in global transcription, cell signaling dependencies, and extent of epigenetic/metabolic shifts in these various human naïve-reverted pluripotent states represent true functional differences or alternatively the existence of distinct human pluripotent states along a spectrum. In this study, we review the current understanding and developmental features of various human pluripotency-associated phenotypes and discuss potential biological mechanisms that may support stable maintenance of an authentic epiblast-like ground state of human pluripotency.
Keywords: blastocyst; epiblast; hESC; human embryonic stem cell; inner cell mass; naive human pluripotency.