Mouse and rat embryonic stem cell (ESC) self-renewal can be maintained by dual inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) and mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK). Inhibition of GSK3 promotes ESC self-renewal by abrogating T-cell factor 3 (TCF3)-mediated repression of the pluripotency network. How inhibition of MEK mediates ESC self-renewal, however, remains largely unknown. Here, we show that inhibition of MEK can significantly suppress lymphoid enhancer factor 1 (LEF1) expression in mouse ESCs. Knockdown or knockout of Lef1 partially mimics the self-renewal promoting effect of MEK inhibitors. Moreover, depletion of both Tcf3 and Lef1 enables maintenance of undifferentiated mouse ESCs without exogenous factors, cytokines, or inhibitors. Transcriptome resequencing analysis reveals that LEF1 is closely associated with endoderm specification in ESCs. Thus our study adds support to the notion that the key to maintaining the ESC ground state is to shield ESCs from differentiative cues.
- Received November 28, 2016.
- Accepted March 6, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd
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