Pluripotent mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells, which are derived from the inner cell mass (ICM) of preimplantation stage embryos, are capable of self-renewing indefinitely in the presence of the external signal leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), activation of Wnt signaling through inhibition of GSK3, and inhibition of MAP kinase/ERK kinase signaling. The OCT4 transcription factor is expressed highly in pluripotent cells and is a central transcriptional regulator of the pluripotent state. Here, we describe a protocol to culture ES cells in LIF-independent and serum-free media using an inducible OCT4 (iOCT4) ES cell model system. This protocol is sufficient to sustain ES cell self-renewal in vitro in defined conditions in the absence of external signals. LIF-independent iOCT4 ES cells are fully capable of differentiating following deactivation of the inducible OCT4 transgene.
Keywords: Embryonic stem cells; LIF; OCT4; Pluripotent; Self-renewal.