Large-scale gene expression profiling was performed on embryo-derived stem cell lines to identify molecular signatures of pluripotency and lineage specificity. Analysis of pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cells, extraembryonic-restricted trophoblast stem (TS) cells, and terminally-differentiated mouse embryo fibroblast (MEF) cells identified expression profiles unique to each cell type, as well as genes common only to ES and TS cells. Whereas most of the MEF-specific genes had been characterized previously, the majority (67%) of the ES-specific genes were novel and did not include known differentiated cell markers. Comparison with microarray data from embryonic material demonstrated that ES-specific genes were underrepresented in all stages sampled, whereas TS-specific genes included known placental markers. Investigation of four novel TS-specific genes showed trophoblast-restricted expression in cell lines and in vivo, whereas one uncharacterized ES-specific gene, Esg-1, was found to be exclusively associated with pluripotency. We suggest that pluripotency requires a set of genes not expressed in other cell types, whereas lineage-restricted stem cells, like TS cells, express genes predictive of their differentiated lineage.
ASJC Scopus subject areas