Article | Published:

Notch inhibition allows oncogene-independent generation of iPS cells

Nature Chemical Biology volume 10, pages 632639 (2014) | Download Citation

  • An Erratum to this article was published on 13 November 2014
  • An Erratum to this article was published on 13 November 2014

This article has been updated


The reprogramming of somatic cells to pluripotency using defined transcription factors holds great promise for biomedicine. However, human reprogramming remains inefficient and relies either on the use of the potentially dangerous oncogenes KLF4 and CMYC or the genetic inhibition of the tumor suppressor gene p53. We hypothesized that inhibition of signal transduction pathways that promote differentiation of the target somatic cells during development might relieve the requirement for non-core pluripotency factors during induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) reprogramming. Here, we show that inhibition of Notch greatly improves the efficiency of iPSC generation from mouse and human keratinocytes by suppressing p21 in a p53-independent manner and thereby enriching for undifferentiated cells capable of long-term self-renewal. Pharmacological inhibition of Notch enabled routine production of human iPSCs without KLF4 and CMYC while leaving p53 activity intact. Thus, restricting the development of somatic cells by altering intercellular communication enables the production of safer human iPSCs.

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Change history

  • 29 July 2014

    In the version of this article initially published, Julia TCW's name was misspelled as Julia T C W. In addition, her initials in the author contribution statement should have read J.T. instead of J.T.C.W. The error has been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.

  • 14 August 2014

    In the version of this article initially published, a black bar was erroneously placed in the scrambled shRNA column in Figure 3g. The error has been corrected for the PDF and HTML versions of the article.


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The authors would like to thank E. Son for assistance with microarray data analysis, S. Sato for assistance with chimera experiments, E. Kiskinis for assistance with nanostring analysis and K. Koszka and M. Yamaki for assistance with teratoma experiments. The authors are grateful for the financial support that made this work possible. K.E. was supported by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 grant 5R01GM096067, NIH P01 grant 5P01GM099117 and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. A.M. was supported by NIH P01 grant 5P01GM099117. H.A. was supported by grants from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan, Grant-in-aid for Scientific Research (21390456) and Grant-in-Aid for challenging Exploratory Research (22659304) and a grant from JST-CREST. J.K.I. was supported by a Stan and Fiona Druckenmiller–New York Stem Cell Foundation postdoctoral fellowship, NIH K99 grant 1K99NS077435-01A1, NIH R00 grant 4R00NS077435-03 and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. C.B. was supported by a Feodor Lynen Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Author information

Author notes

    • Justin K Ichida
    •  & Julia TCW

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Justin K Ichida
    • , Julia TCW
    • , Luis A Williams
    • , Ava C Carter
    • , Marcelo T Moura
    • , Michael Ziller
    • , Sean Singh
    • , Christoph Bock
    • , Lee L Rubin
    • , Alexander Meissner
    •  & Kevin Eggan
  2. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Justin K Ichida
    • , Julia TCW
    • , Luis A Williams
    • , Ava C Carter
    • , Marcelo T Moura
    • , Sean Singh
    •  & Kevin Eggan
  3. Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Julia TCW
    •  & Kevin Eggan
  4. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Michael Ziller
    • , Christoph Bock
    •  & Alexander Meissner
  5. Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Giovanni Amabile
  6. Department of Reproductive Biology, National Research Institute for Child Health and Development, Tokyo, Japan.

    • Akihiro Umezawa
    •  & Hidenori Akutsu
  7. Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

    • James E Bradner
  8. Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

    • James E Bradner
  9. Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA.

    • Justin K Ichida
    •  & Yingxiao Shi


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A.M. and J.E.B. hypothesized that Notch inhibition might aid reprogramming. J.K.I., J.T., A.M., A.U., L.L.R. and K.E. designed reprogramming and mechanistic experiments to test the hypothesis. J.K.I., J.T., A.C.C., L.A.W., Y.S., M.T.M., S.S., G.A. and H.A. performed reprogramming experiments and characterization of the iPSCs. C.B. and M.Z. performed bioinformatic analysis of transcriptional data characterizing the iPSCs. J.K.I., J.T., A.C.C. and Y.S. performed experiments to determine the mechanism of action of DAPT and Notch inhibition in reprogramming. K.E., J.K.I. and J.T. discovered and confirmed the mechanism of action of DAPT. K.E. and J.K.I. wrote the paper. All authors helped in paper revision.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Hidenori Akutsu or Alexander Meissner or Kevin Eggan.

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