Background. Rex1/Zfp42 has been extensively used as a marker for the undifferentiated state of pluripotent stem cells. However, its function in pluripotent stem cells including embryonic stem (ES) cells remained unclear although its involvement in visceral endoderm differentiation in F9 embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells was reported. Results. We showed the function of Rex1 in mouse ES cells as well as in embryos using the conventional gene targeting strategy. Our results clearly indicated that Rex1 function is dispensable for both the maintenance of pluripotency in ES cells and the development of embryos. However, Rex1-/- ES cells showed the defect to induce a subset of the marker genes of visceral endoderm, when differentiated as embryoid body, as found in EC cells. Conclusion. Rex1 should be regarded just as a marker of pluripotency without functional significance like the activity of alkaline phosphatase.
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