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Keywords:

  • Tcea3;
  • Lefty1;
  • pSmad2;
  • Pluripotency;
  • Self-renewal;
  • Mouse embryonic stem cells

Abstract

Self-renewal and pluripotency are hallmark properties of pluripotent stem cells, including embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and iPS cells. Previous studies revealed the ESC-specific core transcription circuitry and showed that these core factors (e.g., Oct3/4, Sox2, and Nanog) regulate not only self-renewal but also pluripotent differentiation. However, it remains elusive how these two cell states are regulated and balanced during in vitro replication and differentiation. Here, we report that the transcription elongation factor Tcea3 is highly enriched in mouse ESCs (mESCs) and plays important roles in regulating the differentiation. Strikingly, altering Tcea3 expression in mESCs did not affect self-renewal under nondifferentiating condition; however, upon exposure to differentiating cues, its overexpression impaired in vitro differentiation capacity, and its knockdown biased differentiation toward mesodermal and endodermal fates. Furthermore, we identified Lefty1 as a downstream target of Tcea3 and showed that the Tcea3-Lefty1-Nodal-Smad2 pathway is an innate program critically regulating cell fate choices between self-replication and differentiation commitment. Together, we propose that Tcea3 critically regulates pluripotent differentiation of mESCs as a molecular rheostat of Nodal-Smad2/3 signaling. STEM CELLS2013;31:282–292