[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) activates the transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), which results in the maintenance of mouse embryonic stem cells in the pluripotent state by inhibiting both mesodermal and endodermal differentiation. How the LIF/STAT3 pathway inhibits commitment to both mesoderm and endoderm lineages is presently unknown. Using a hormone-dependent STAT3 and with microarray analysis, we identified 58 targets of STAT3 including 20 unknown genes. Functional analysis showed that 22 among the 23 STAT3 target genes analyzed contribute to the maintenance of the undifferentiated state, as evidenced by an increase in the frequency of differentiated colonies in a self-renewal assay and a concomitant elevation of early differentiation markers upon knockdown. Fourteen of them, including Dact1, Klf4, Klf5, Rgs16, Smad7, Ccrn4l, Cnnm1, Ocln, Ier3, Pim1, Cyr61, and Sgk, were also regulated by Nanog. Analysis of lineage-specific markers showed that the STAT3 target genes fell into three distinct categories, depending on their capacity to inhibit either mesoderm or endoderm differentiation or both. The identification of genes that harness self-renewal and are downstream targets of both STAT3 and Nanog shed light on the mechanisms underlying functional redundancy between STAT3 and Nanog in mouse embryonic stem cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Embryonic stem (ES) cell pluripotency is regulated by a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Previously we have demonstrated that phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)-dependent signaling is required for efficient self-renewal of murine ES cells. In the study presented here, we have investigated the downstream molecular mechanisms that contribute to the ability of PI3Ks to regulate pluripotency. We show that inhibition of PI3K activity with either pharmacological or genetic tools results in decreased expression of RNA for the homeodomain transcription factor Nanog and decreased Nanog protein levels. Inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3) activity by PI3Ks plays a key role in regulation of Nanog expression, because blockade of GSK-3 activity effectively reversed the effects of PI3K inhibition on Nanog RNA, and protein expression and self-renewal under these circumstances were restored. Furthermore, GSK-3 mutants mimicked the effects of PI3K or GSK-3 inhibition on Nanog expression. Importantly, expression of an inducible form of Nanog prevented the loss of self-renewal observed upon inhibition of PI3Ks, supporting a functional relationship between PI3Ks and Nanog expression. In addition, expression of a number of putative Nanog target genes was sensitive to PI3K inhibition. Thus, the new evidence provided in this study shows that PI3K-dependent regulation of ES cell self-renewal is mediated, at least in part, by the ability of PI3K signaling to maintain Nanog expression. Regulation of GSK-3 activity by PI3Ks appears to play a key role in this process.