Developmental expression of pluripotency determining factors in caprine embryos: Novel pattern of NANOG protein localization in the nucleolus


  • Markers of pluripotency (NANOG, POU5F1, SSEA) are differentially expressed in preimplantation goat embryos.


Transcription factors, POU5F1/OCT4 and NANOG, whose expression is restricted to the inner cell mass (ICM) in mouse and human blastocysts, are used to characterize undifferentiated embryonic stem cells (ESC) in vitro. However, POU5F1 may not be a useful marker in domestic animals due to its expression in both ICM and trophectoderm (TE), while NANOG mRNA and protein expression have only been described fully in mice. In an effort to identify ESC markers for domestic animals, expression patterns of NANOG, POU5F1, and the cell surface markers (SSEA1, SSEA4, TRA-1-60, TRA-1-81) were examined in preimplantation goat embryos, a species that has proven to be a superior choice for the production of transgenic proteins in milk (biopharming). Our results indicate that while goat embryos express POU5F1, SSEA1, and SSEA4 proteins, their expression is not strictly restricted to the ICM. In a unique staining pattern, NANOG protein was localized to the nucleoplasm and nucleoli in ICM cells, but was localized strictly to nucleoli in TE. This pattern may reflect down-regulation of protein by sequestration/degradation utilizing a nucleolar mechanism known to operate in stem cells. Furthermore, NANOG mRNA in TE was also significantly down-regulated as compared with that in ICM. Taken together, this novel expression pattern of NANOG in goat preimplantation embryos suggests that NANOG could serve as marker of pluripotency in goats and may be useful in derivation and characterization of caprine ESC. This study is the first to characterize both NANOG mRNA and protein expression in any species other than the mouse. Mol. Reprod. Dev. 73: 1512–1522, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.