The Oct-4 transcription factor, a member of the POU family that is also known as Oct-3 and Oct3/4, is expressed in totipotent embryonic stem cells (ES) and germ cells, and it has a unique role in development and in the determination of pluripotency. ES may have their postnatal counterpart in the adult stem cells, recently described in various mammalian tissues, and Oct-4 expression in putative stem cells purified from adult tissues has been considered a real marker of stemness. In this context, normal mature adult cells would not be expected to show Oct-4 expression. On the contrary, we demonstrated, using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (total RNA, Poly A+), real-time PCR, immunoprecipitation, Western blotting, band shift, and immunofluorescence, that human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, genetically stable and mainly terminally differentiated cells with well defined functions and a limited lifespan, express Oct-4. These observations raise the question as to whether the role of Oct-4 as a marker of pluripotency should be challenged. Our findings suggest that the presence of Oct-4 is not sufficient to define a cell as pluripotent, and that additional measures should be used to avoid misleading results in the case of an embryonic-specific gene with a large number of pseudogenes that may contribute to false identification of Oct-4 in adult stem cells. These unexpected findings may provide new insights into the role of Oct-4 in fully differentiated cells.
Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.