Pluripotent epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs) derived from postimplantation embryos exhibit properties that are characteristically different when compared with pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs) derived from mouse blastocysts. However, EpiSCs are relatively less well characterised compared with ESCs. In particular, the relationship between EpiSCs and primordial germ cells (PGCs) is unknown, and is worthy of investigation because PGCs originate from postimplantation epiblast cells in vivo.We show that EpiSCs have an infinite capacity for generating PGCs, under conditions that sustain their pluripotency and self-renewal. These PGCs generated in vitro show appropriate transcriptional and epigenetic reprogramming events and are able to develop further into late germ cells. Notably, the PGCs can, in turn, be induced to undergo dedifferentiation into pluripotent embryonic germ cells (EGCs), which resemble ESCs and not the EpiSC from which they are derived. Our observations demonstrate intrinsic reprogramming during specification of PGCs that results in the erasure of epigenetic memory of EpiSCs following reactivation of the X-chromosome, DNA demethylation and re-expression of key pluripotency genes. This study provides novel insights into the nature and properties of EpiSCs, and introduces an in vitro model system that will be useful for investigations on PGC specification and on mechanisms regulating epigenetic reprogramming in germ cells.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Developmental Biology