JOURNAL ARTICLE

The generation of definitive endoderm from human embryonic stem cells is initially independent from activin A but requires canonical Wnt-signaling

Ortwin Naujok, Ulf Diekmann, Sigurd Lenzen
Stem Cell Reviews 2014, 10 (4): 480-93
24913278
The activation of the TGF-beta pathway by activin A directs ES cells into the definitive endoderm germ layer. However, there is evidence that activin A/TGF-beta is not solely responsible for differentiation into definitive endoderm. GSK3beta inhibition has recently been shown to generate definitive endoderm-like cells from human ES cells via activation of the canonical Wnt-pathway. The GSK3beta inhibitor CHIR-99021 has been reported to generate mesoderm from human iPS cells. Thus, the specific role of the GSK3beta inhibitor CHIR-99021 was analyzed during the differentiation of human ES cells and compared against a classic endoderm differentiation protocol. At high concentrations of CHIR-99021, the cells were directed towards mesodermal cell fates, while low concentrations permitted mesodermal and endodermal differentiation. Finally, the analyses revealed that GSK3beta inhibition rapidly directed human ES cells into a primitive streak-like cell type independently from the TGF-beta pathway with mesoderm and endoderm differentiation potential. Addition of low activin A concentrations effectively differentiated these primitive streak-like cells into definitive endoderm. Thus, the in vitro differentiation of human ES cells into definitive endoderm is initially independent from the activin A/TGF-beta pathway but requires high canonical Wnt-signaling activity.

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