• Embryonic stem cell;
  • Differentiation;
  • Primitive streak;
  • Mesoderm;
  • γ-Secretase


γ-Secretase is a membrane-associated protease with multiple intracellular targets, a number of which have been shown to influence embryonic development and embryonic stem (ES) cell differentiation. This paper describes the use of the γ-secretase inhibitor N-[N-(3,5-difluorophenacetyl)-L-alanyl]-S-phenylglycine t-butyl ester (DAPT) to evaluate the role of γ-secretase in the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells to the germ lineages. The addition of DAPT did not prevent the formation of primitive ectoderm-like cells from ES cells in culture. In contrast, the addition of DAPT during primitive ectoderm-like cell differentiation interfered with the ability of both serum and BMP4 to induce a primitive streak-like intermediate and resulted in the preferential formation of neurectoderm. Similarly, DAPT reduced the formation of primitive streak-like intermediates from differentiating human ES cells; the culture conditions used resulted in a population enriched in human surface ectoderm. These data suggest that γ-secretase may form part of the general pathway by which mesoderm is specified within the primitive streak. The addition of an E-cadherin neutralizing antibody was able to partially reverse the effect of DAPT, suggesting that DAPT may be preventing the formation of primitive streak-like intermediates and promoting neurectoderm differentiation by stabilizing E-cadherin and preventing its proteolysis. STEM CELLS 2009;27:2941–2951