OCT4 is a fundamental component of the molecular circuitry governing pluripotency in vivo and in vitro. To determine how OCT4 establishes and protects the pluripotent lineage in the embryo, we used comparative single-cell transcriptomics and quantitative immunofluorescence on control and OCT4 null blastocyst inner cell masses at two developmental stages. Surprisingly, activation of most pluripotency-associated transcription factors in the early mouse embryo occurs independently of OCT4, with the exception of the JAK/STAT signaling machinery. Concurrently, OCT4 null inner cell masses ectopically activate a subset of trophectoderm-associated genes. Inspection of metabolic pathways implicates the regulation of rate-limiting glycolytic enzymes by OCT4, consistent with a role in sustaining glycolysis. Furthermore, up-regulation of the lysosomal pathway was specifically detected in OCT4 null embryos. This finding implicates a requirement for OCT4 in the production of normal trophectoderm. Collectively, our findings uncover regulation of cellular metabolism and biophysical properties as mechanisms by which OCT4 instructs pluripotency.
Keywords: OCT4; STAT3 pathway; developmental biology; metabolism; single-cell profiling.
Copyright © 2021 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.