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Keywords:

  • Cell surface biomarker;
  • Embryonic stem cell;
  • Glycoproteomics

Abstract

Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) can give rise to any adult cell type and thus offer enormous potential for regenerative medicine and drug discovery. Molecular biomarkers serve as valuable tools to classify and isolate ESCs and to monitor their differentiation state by antibody-based techniques. A number of biomarkers, such as certain cell surface antigens, are used to assign pluripotent ESCs; however, accumulating evidence suggests that ESCs are heterogeneous in morphology, phenotype and function, and are thereby classified into subpopulations characterized by multiple sets of molecular biomarkers. Biomarker discovery is also important for ESC biology to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that regulate pluripotency and differentiation. This review summarizes studies of ESC biomarker discovery. “Genome-wide” expression profiling of ESC mRNAs and proteins and direct analyses of the cell surface subproteome have demonstrated that ESCs express a diverse range of biomarkers, cell surface antigens, and signaling molecules found in different cell lineages, as well as a number of key molecules that assure “stemness”. Clearly, future quantitative proteomics approaches will enhance our knowledge of the stage- and lineage-specific expression of the proteome and its temporal changes upon differentiation, and provide a more detailed view of nascent and clonally amplified ESCs.