The pluripotency of embryonic stem (ES) cells is thought to be maintained by a few key transcription factors, including Oct3/4 and Sox2. The function of Oct3/4 in ES cells has been extensively characterized, but that of Sox2 has yet to be determined. Sox2 can act synergistically with Oct3/4 in vitro to activate Oct-Sox enhancers, which regulate the expression of pluripotent stem cell-specific genes, including Nanog, Oct3/4 and Sox2 itself. These findings suggest that Sox2 is required by ES cells for its Oct-Sox enhancer activity. Using inducible Sox2-null mouse ES cells, we show that Sox2 is dispensable for the activation of these Oct-Sox enhancers. In contrast, we demonstrate that Sox2 is necessary for regulating multiple transcription factors that affect Oct3/4 expression and that the forced expression of Oct3/4 rescues the pluripotency of Sox2-null ES cells. These results indicate that the essential function of Sox2 is to stabilize ES cells in a pluripotent state by maintaining the requisite level of Oct3/4 expression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology