L-Proline Supplementation Drives Self-Renewing Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells to a Partially Primed Pluripotent State: The Early Primitive Ectoderm-Like Cell

Methods Mol Biol. 2022:2490:11-24. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-2281-0_2.


Mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) can be grown under a variety of culture conditions as discrete cell states along the pluripotency continuum, ranging from the least mature "ground state" to being "primed" to differentiate. Cells along this continuum are demarcated by differences in gene expression, X chromosome inactivation, ability to form chimeras and epigenetic marks. We have developed a protocol to differentiate "naïve" mESCs to a "partially primed" state by adding the amino acid L-proline to self-renewal medium. These cells express the primitive ectoderm markers Dnmt3b and Fgf5, and are thus called early primitive ectoderm-like (EPL) cells. In addition to changes in gene expression, these cells undergo a morphological change to flattened, dispersed colonies, have an increased proliferation rate, and a predisposition to neural fate. EPL cells can be used to study the cell states along the pluripotency continuum, peri-implantation embryogenesis, and as a starting point for efficient neuronal differentiation.

Keywords: Amino acids; Early primitive ectoderm-like; Embryonic stem cell; L-proline; Pluripotency; Pluripotency continuum.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Ectoderm
  • Mice
  • Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Proline / metabolism


  • Proline