Mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells are prototypical stem cells that remain undifferentiated in culture for long periods, yet maintain the ability to differentiate into essentially all cell types. Previously, we have reported that ES cells oscillate between two distinct states, which can be distinguished by the transient expression of Zscan4 genes originally identified for its specific expression in mouse two-cell stage embryos. Here, we report that the nascent protein synthesis is globally repressed in the Zscan4-positive state of ES cells, which is mediated by the transient expression of newly identified eukaryotic translation initiation factor 1A (Eif1a)-like genes. Eif1a-like genes, clustered on Chromosome 12, show the high sequence similarity to the Eifa1 and consist of 10 genes (Eif1al1-Eif1al10) and 9 pseudogenes (Eif1al-ps1-Eif1al-ps9). The analysis of the expressed sequence tag database showed that Eif1a-like genes are expressed mostly in the two-cell stage mouse embryos. Microarray analyses and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction analyses show that Eif1a-like genes are expressed specifically in the Zscan4-positive state of ES cells. These results indicate a novel mechanism to repress protein synthesis by Eif1a-like genes and a unique mode of protein synthesis regulation in ES cells, which undergo a transient and reversible repression of global protein synthesis in the Zscan4-positive state.
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