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RETRACTED ARTICLE: Bidirectional developmental potential in reprogrammed cells with acquired pluripotency


This article was retracted on 02 July 2014

This article has been updated


We recently discovered an unexpected phenomenon of somatic cell reprogramming into pluripotent cells by exposure to sublethal stimuli, which we call stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP)1. This reprogramming does not require nuclear transfer2,3 or genetic manipulation4. Here we report that reprogrammed STAP cells, unlike embryonic stem (ES) cells, can contribute to both embryonic and placental tissues, as seen in a blastocyst injection assay. Mouse STAP cells lose the ability to contribute to the placenta as well as trophoblast marker expression on converting into ES-like stem cells by treatment with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF). In contrast, when cultured with Fgf4, STAP cells give rise to proliferative stem cells with enhanced trophoblastic characteristics. Notably, unlike conventional trophoblast stem cells, the Fgf4-induced stem cells from STAP cells contribute to both embryonic and placental tissues in vivo and transform into ES-like cells when cultured with LIF-containing medium. Taken together, the developmental potential of STAP cells, shown by chimaera formation and in vitro cell conversion, indicates that they represent a unique state of pluripotency.

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Figure 1: STAP cells contribute to both embryonic and placental tissues in vivo.
Figure 2: Fgf4 treatment induces some trophoblast-lineage character in STAP cells.
Figure 3: Fgf4 treatment induces some trophoblast-lineage character in STAP cells.
Figure 4: Differentiation potential and epigenetic state of STAP and STAP-derived stem cells.

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Data deposits

RNA-seq and ChIP-seq files have been submitted to the NCBI BioSample databases under accessions SAMN02393426, SAMN02393427, SAMN02393428, SAMN02393429, SAMN02393430, SAMN02393431, SAMN02393432, SAMN02393433, SAMN02393434 and SAMN02393435.

Change history


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We thank S. Nishikawa and N. Love for discussion and M. Ohgushi, S. Kuraku, M. Eiraku, S. Ohtsuka and K. Kakiguchi for help with experimental planning, material preparation and analyses. 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.

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Authors and Affiliations



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

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Haruko Obokata, Yoshiki Sasai or Teruhiko Wakayama.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Additional information

Several critical errors have been found in our Article and Letter, which led to an in-depth investigation by the RIKEN Institute. The RIKEN investigation committee has categorized some of the errors as misconduct (see Supplementary Data 1 and Supplementary Data 2). Additional errors identified by the authors that are not discussed in RIKEN’s report are listed in the Retraction Note.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Placental contribution of STAP cells.

a, Chimaeric mouse with STAP cells derived from CD45+ cells of B6GFP × 129/Sv mice (B6GFP, C57BL/6 line with cag-gfp transgene). Arrows indicate a placenta and a yolk sac. b, Cross-sections of yolk sac (top) and placenta (bottom). GFP-positive cells (arrows) were seen only in yolk sac and placenta of the STAP cell chimaera. Scale bars, 50?μm. c, Co-immunostaining showed that these GFP-positive cells (right) were found in the extra-embryonic endoderm-derived epithelial cells (pan-cytokeratin+ and overlying laminin+ basement membrane; left) of the yolk sac. Scale bar, 10?μm.

Extended Data Figure 2 Trophoblast differentiation potential of Fgf4-induced stem cells.

a, b, Immunostaining (cross-section) of placentae obtained in the blastocyst injection assay with GFP (constitutive)-labelled ES cells (upper) or Fgf4-induced stem cells (bottom). Brown shows pan-cytokeratin and red shows GFP (ES cell or Fgf4-induced stem cell contribution). Regions indicated in a are shown in b. Fgf4-induced stem cells contributed to all layers of placentae, whereas no contribution was observed with ES cells. a, Scale bars, 5?mm. b, Scale bars, 50?μm. c, Pluripotent marker expression of Fgf4-induced stem cells. Scale bars, 50?μm. d, e, Effects of Fgf4 withdrawal from Fgf4-induced stem cell culture. Unlike trophoblast stem cells (d, left), which generated multi-nucleated large cells (arrow) in the absence of Fgf4, Fgf4-induced stem cells (d, right) simply stopped proliferation and gradually died on Fgf4 withdrawal. Scale bars, 50?μm. This finding suggests that placental differentiation of Fgf4-induced stem cells in vivo may involve more than just Fgf4 signal suppression. e, The number of 4N and 8N cells increased within 6?days of Fgf4 withdrawal in trophoblast stem cells but not in Fgf4-induced stem cells.

Extended Data Figure 3 Transcriptome analyses of STAP cells shown by heat maps.

a, Heat maps of expression profiles of top-ranked up- and downregulated genes in STAP cells (Oct4-GFP+ clusters converted from CD45+ cells) compared to ES cells. Their respective expression levels in STAP stem cells, trophoblast stem cells and Fgf4-induced stem cells are shown. Absolute expression values are scaled by log2. The genes expressed differentially between ES cells and STAP cells tended to show more similar expression profiles to ES cells in STAP stem cells and Fgf4-induced stem cells than in trophoblast stem cells. Expression of some early endodermal lineage genes such as Gata4 and Sox17 was moderately elevated in STAP cells as compared to ES cells, whereas its biological significance remains elusive (these genes are shown to be strongly expressed in Oct4-GFP-dim cells1). b, Heat maps of expression profiles of top-ranked up- and downregulated genes in ES cells compared to CD45+ cells and their respective expression levels in STAP cells. The genes expressed differentially between CD45+ and ES cells tended to show similar expression profiles in ES cells and STAP cells. c, Heat maps of expression profiles of representative genes implicated in haematopoietic lineage development in CD45+, ES and STAP cells. No strong correlation was seen between CD45+ cells and STAP cells in their expression profiles (a similar tendency of no correlation was seen for the data in b).

Extended Data Figure 4 Transcriptome analyses for genes implicated in cell-cycle control and induced pluripotent stem-cell conversion.

a, Comparison of expression values of genes involved in cell-cycle control in ES and STAP cells; the G to M cell cycle phases (upper), the cell cycle checkpoint and cell cycle arrest (middle), and the cell cycle regulation (bottom) are shown. Expression level was measured by log2 of mean normalized counts. b, Heat map for upregulated genes in cells undergoing reprogramming by ‘Yamanaka factors’14. c, Heat maps for upregulated genes in pre-iPS cells15 (top) and in partially reprogrammed cells by Yamanaka factors (bottom)14. Expression level was measured by log2 of mean normalized counts. Differentially expressed genes were identified by the DESeq package21 and only genes with a false discovery rate of 1% were selected for comparison, unless mentioned otherwise.

Extended Data Figure 5 Responses of Fgf4-induced stem cells to signal modifications.

af, JAK inhibitor treatment assay for Fgf4-induced stem cells. Fgf4-induced stem cells were cultured under feeder-free conditions and treated with 0.6?μM JAK inhibitor for 48?h. JAK inhibitor treatment assay eliminated ES cells (Oct4-GFP+) from the culture (a, b). The level of Oct4-GFP expression in Fgf4-induced stem cells, which was moderate, was maintained even after JAK inhibitor treatment (c, d; three independent experiments). Scale bar, 100?μm. e, f, For an additional control, Fgf4-induced stem cells were plated in trophoblast stem-cell medium containing Fgf4 together with Oct4-GFP ES cells that constitutively expressed BFP (the number of plated cells was one-tenth of that of plated Fgf4-induced stem cells). Whereas BFP-expressing colonies (ES-cell-derived) still expressed Oct4-GFP in trophoblast stem-cell culture medium after 2?days (e), no Oct4-GFP+ colonies from BFP-expressing ES cells were observed in the JAK-inhibitor-treated culture (f). g, FACS analysis of integrin α7 expression in Fgf4-induced stem cells. Over 40% of Fgf4-induced stem cells strongly expressed both the pluripotency marker Oct4-GFP and the trophoblast marker integrin α7. The bottom panel shows an isotype control for integrin α7 antibody. In ES cells, integrin-α7-expressing cells were less than 0.1% (data not shown; three independent ES cell lines were examined).

Extended Data Figure 6 Characterization of ES-like cells converted from Fgf4-induced stem cells and comparison of STAP cells with early embryos.

a, Immunohistochemistry of ES-like cells for trophoblast and pluripotency markers. ES-like cells converted from Fgf4-induced stem cells no longer expressed the trophoblast marker (integrin alpha 7), but they did express the pluripotency markers (Oct4, Nanog and SSEA-1). Scale bar, 100?μm. b, Pluripotency of ES-like cells converted from Fgf4-induced stem cells as shown by teratoma formation. Those cells successfully formed teratomas containing tissues from all three germ layers: neuroepithelium (left, arrow indicates), muscle tissue (middle, arrow indicates) and bronchial-like epithelium (right). Scale bar, 100?μm. c, MEK inhibitor treatment assay for Oct4-gfp Fgf4-induced stem cells in trophoblast stem-cell medium containing Fgf4. No substantial formation of Oct4-GFP+ colonies was observed from dissociated Fgf4-induced stem cells in MEK-inhibitor-containing medium. Scale bar, 100?μm. d, Cluster tree diagram from hierarchical clustering of global expression profiles. Red, AU P values. As this analysis included morula and blastocyst embryos from which only small amounts of RNA could be obtained, we used pre-amplification with the SMARTer Ultra Low RNA kit for Illumina Sequencing (Clontech Laboratories). e, f, Volcano plot of the expression profile of STAP cells compared to the morula (e) and blastocyst (f). Genes showing greater than 10-fold change and P value 1.0?×?10−6 are highlighted in red and are considered up- (or down-) regulated in the STAP cells.

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Obokata, H., Sasai, Y., Niwa, H. et al. RETRACTED ARTICLE: Bidirectional developmental potential in reprogrammed cells with acquired pluripotency. Nature 505, 676–680 (2014).

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