Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency

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Here we report a unique cellular reprogramming phenomenon, called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP), which requires neither nuclear transfer nor the introduction of transcription factors. In STAP, strong external stimuli such as a transient low-pH stressor reprogrammed mammalian somatic cells, resulting in the generation of pluripotent cells. Through real-time imaging of STAP cells derived from purified lymphocytes, as well as gene rearrangement analysis, we found that committed somatic cells give rise to STAP cells by reprogramming rather than selection. STAP cells showed a substantial decrease in DNA methylation in the regulatory regions of pluripotency marker genes. Blastocyst injection showed that STAP cells efficiently contribute to chimaeric embryos and to offspring via germline transmission. We also demonstrate the derivation of robustly expandable pluripotent cell lines from STAP cells. Thus, our findings indicate that epigenetic fate determination of mammalian cells can be markedly converted in a context-dependent manner by strong environmental cues.

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We thank S. Nishikawa for discussion and J. D. Ross, N. Takata, M. Eiraku, M. Ohgushi, S. Itoh, S. Yonemura, S. Ohtsuka and K. Kakiguchi for help with experiments and analyses. We thank A. Penvose and K. Westerman for comments on the manuscript. H.O. is grateful to T. Okano, S. Tsuneda and K. Kuroda for support and encouragement. Financial support for this research was provided by Intramural RIKEN Research Budget (H.O., T.W. and Y.S.), a Scientific Research in Priority Areas (20062015) to T.W., the Network Project for Realization of Regenerative Medicine to Y.S., and Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to C.A.V.

Author information

Author notes

    • Teruhiko Wakayama

    Present address: Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Yamanashi, Yamanashi 400-8510, Japan.


  1. Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

    • Haruko Obokata
    • , Koji Kojima
    • , Martin P. Vacanti
    •  & Charles A. Vacanti
  2. Laboratory for Cellular Reprogramming, RIKEN Center for Developmental biology, Kobe 650-0047, Japan

    • Haruko Obokata
  3. Laboratory for Genomic Reprogramming, RIKEN Center for Developmental biology, Kobe 650-0047, Japan

    • Haruko Obokata
    •  & Teruhiko Wakayama
  4. Laboratory for Organogenesis and Neurogenesis, RIKEN Center for Developmental biology, Kobe 650-0047, Japan

    • Yoshiki Sasai
  5. Department of Pathology, Irwin Army Community Hospital, Fort Riley, Kansas 66442, USA

    • Martin P. Vacanti
  6. Laboratory for Pluripotent Stem Cell Studies, RIKEN Center for Developmental biology, Kobe 650-0047, Japan

    • Hitoshi Niwa
  7. Institute of Advanced Biomedical Engineering and Science, Tokyo Women’s Medical University, Tokyo 162-8666, Japan

    • Masayuki Yamato


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H.O. and Y.S. wrote the manuscript. H.O., T.W. and Y.S. performed experiments, and K.K. assisted with H.O.’s transplantation experiments. H.O., T.W., Y.S., H.N. and C.A.V. designed the project. M.P.V. and M.Y. helped with the design and evaluation of the project.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Haruko Obokata or Charles A. Vacanti.

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    Supplementary Information

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  1. 1.

    Live imaging of low-pH-treated CD45+cells

    DIC images during day 0 – day 7, overlaid with oct3/4::GFP (green). A strong contrast of DIC (as compared to video 2) was applied to imaging so that lamellipodia-like processes (frequently seen on and after day 4) could be viewed easily.

  2. 2.

    Live imaging of low-pH-treated CD45+cells (another view)

    DIC images during day 0 – day 6, overlaid with oct3/4::GFP (green). The interval of imaging was half (15 min) of that of video 1 (the overall speed of the video is three-times slower than video 1). In this view field where the cell density was relatively low, behaviours of individual cells were more easily seen. In this case, forming clusters were slightly smaller in size.

  3. 3.

    STAP cell-derived embryo (E10.5) from 4N blastocyst injection

    STAP cells with constitutive GFP expression were injected into 4N blastocysts and produced normal embryos with heart beating.

  4. 4.

    Beating cardiac muscle generated from STAP-SCs in vitro Bright-field image.