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New cell lines from mouse epiblast share defining features with human embryonic stem cells


The application of human embryonic stem (ES) cells in medicine and biology has an inherent reliance on understanding the starting cell population. Human ES cells differ from mouse ES cells and the specific embryonic origin of both cell types is unclear. Previous work suggested that mouse ES cells could only be obtained from the embryo before implantation in the uterus1,2,3,4,5. Here we show that cell lines can be derived from the epiblast, a tissue of the post-implantation embryo that generates the embryo proper. These cells, which we refer to as EpiSCs (post-implantation epiblast-derived stem cells), express transcription factors known to regulate pluripotency, maintain their genomic integrity, and robustly differentiate into the major somatic cell types as well as primordial germ cells. The EpiSC lines are distinct from mouse ES cells in their epigenetic state and the signals controlling their differentiation. Furthermore, EpiSC and human ES cells share patterns of gene expression and signalling responses that normally function in the epiblast. These results show that epiblast cells can be maintained as stable cell lines and interrogated to understand how pluripotent cells generate distinct fates during early development.

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Figure 1: Cell lines from the E5.5 murine epiblast can be isolated and maintained in culture.
Figure 2: EpiSC lines are pluripotent and differentiate in vitro and in vivo.
Figure 3: Mouse ES cells and EpiSCs have distinct gene expression.
Figure 4: Mouse ES cells and EpiSCs use distinct mechanisms to regulate pluripotency and differentiation.


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We thank J. Battey and Y. Ninomiya for comments on the manuscript and C. Graham, P. Fairchild, J. Pickel, K. Downs, W. Ferguson, and members of the McKay and Gardner labs and the NIH Stem Cell Unit for their contributions to this work. This research was supported by the Intramural Research Programs of the NIH–NINDS and NIH–NCI and by the Wellcome Trust. R.L.G. acknowledges the Royal Society for support. P.J.T. is an NIH–Oxford Biomedical Research Scholar.

Author Contributions P.J.T. derived the EpiSC lines. J.G.C. and P.J.T. carried out in vitro experiments. F.A.B., R.L.G. and P.J.T. derived the mouse ES cells. P.J.T., F.A.B. and T.J.D. performed chimera experiments. P.J.T. and D.L.M. performed teratoma experiments. P.J.T. and E.P.E. performed karyotypic analysis. P.J.T., J.G.C., and R.D.G.M. analysed the data and wrote the paper.

Microarray data are available at the Gene Expression Omnibus website ( under accession number GSE7902.

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Correspondence to Paul J. Tesar or Ronald D. G. McKay.

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Competing interests

Microarray data are available at the Gene Expression Omnibus website ( under accession number GSE7902. Reprints and permissions information is available at The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Tesar, P., Chenoweth, J., Brook, F. et al. New cell lines from mouse epiblast share defining features with human embryonic stem cells. Nature 448, 196–199 (2007).

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