Letter | Published:

Immunogenicity of induced pluripotent stem cells

Nature volume 474, pages 212215 (09 June 2011) | Download Citation


Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), reprogrammed from somatic cells with defined factors, hold great promise for regenerative medicine as the renewable source of autologous cells1,2,3,4,5. Whereas it has been generally assumed that these autologous cells should be immune-tolerated by the recipient from whom the iPSCs are derived, their immunogenicity has not been vigorously examined. We show here that, whereas embryonic stem cells (ESCs) derived from inbred C57BL/6 (B6) mice can efficiently form teratomas in B6 mice without any evident immune rejection, the allogeneic ESCs from 129/SvJ mice fail to form teratomas in B6 mice due to rapid rejection by recipients. B6 mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) were reprogrammed into iPSCs by either retroviral approach (ViPSCs) or a novel episomal approach (EiPSCs) that causes no genomic integration. In contrast to B6 ESCs, teratomas formed by B6 ViPSCs were mostly immune-rejected by B6 recipients. In addition, the majority of teratomas formed by B6 EiPSCs were immunogenic in B6 mice with T cell infiltration, and apparent tissue damage and regression were observed in a small fraction of teratomas. Global gene expression analysis of teratomas formed by B6 ESCs and EiPSCs revealed a number of genes frequently overexpressed in teratomas derived from EiPSCs, and several such gene products were shown to contribute directly to the immunogenicity of the B6 EiPSC-derived cells in B6 mice. These findings indicate that, in contrast to derivatives of ESCs, abnormal gene expression in some cells differentiated from iPSCs can induce T-cell-dependent immune response in syngeneic recipients. Therefore, the immunogenicity of therapeutically valuable cells derived from patient-specific iPSCs should be evaluated before any clinic application of these autologous cells into the patients.

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Gene Expression Omnibus

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The microarray data have been deposited in NCBI’s Gene Expression Omnibus and are accessible through GEO Series accession number GSE28573.


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We thank M. Abe, S. Ding and K. Hochedlinger for their generous supply of integration-free mouse iPSCs. We thank N. Shastri for his advice on how to identify antigen-specific T cells. We thank J. Fink and Blue Lake of Xu lab as well as UCSD Cancer Center pathologic core for technical support. This work was supported by a NIH grant and an Early Translational Award from California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to Y.X. (ET-01277).

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  1. Section of Molecular Biology, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093-0322, USA

    • Tongbiao Zhao
    • , Zhen-Ning Zhang
    • , Zhili Rong
    •  & Yang Xu


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T.Z. and Y.X. designed the experiments, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. T.Z., Z.-N.Z. and Z.R. executed the experiments under the overall coordination of T.Z.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yang Xu.

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