POU class 5 homeobox 1
Symbols POU5F1; MGC22487; OCT3; OCT4; OTF-3; OTF3; OTF4; Oct-3; Oct-4
External IDs OMIM164177 MGI101893 HomoloGene8422 GeneCards: POU5F1 Gene
RNA expression pattern
PBB GE POU5F1 210265 x at tn.png
PBB GE POU5F1 208286 x at tn.png
PBB GE POU5F1 210905 x at tn.png
More reference expression data
Species Human Mouse
Entrez 5460 18999
Ensembl ENSG00000204531 ENSMUSG00000024406
UniProt Q01860 P20263
RefSeq (mRNA) NM_001173531.1 NM_013633.2
RefSeq (protein) NP_001167002.1 NP_038661.2
Location (UCSC) Chr 6:
31.24 – 31.25 Mb
Chr 17:
35.64 – 35.65 Mb
PubMed search [1] [2]

Oct-4 (octamer-binding transcription factor 4) also known as POU5F1 (POU domain, class 5, transcription factor 1) is a protein that in humans is encoded by the POU5F1 gene.[1] Oct-4 is a homeodomain transcription factor of the POU family. This protein is critically involved in the self-renewal of undifferentiated embryonic stem cells.[2] As such, it is frequently used as a marker for undifferentiated cells. Oct-4 expression must be closely regulated; too much or too little will actually cause differentiation of the cells.[3]


Expression and function

Oct-4 transcription factor is initially active as a maternal factor in the oocyte but remains active in embryos throughout the preimplantation period. Oct-4 expression is associated with an undifferentiated phenotype and tumors.[4] In fact gene knockdown of Oct-4 promotes differentiation, thereby demonstrating a role for these factors in human embryonic stem cell self-renewal.[5] Oct-4 can form a heterodimer with Sox2, so that these two proteins bind DNA together.[6]

Mouse embryos that are Oct-4-deficient or have low expression levels of Oct-4 fail to form the inner cell mass, lose pluripotency and differentiate into trophectoderm. Therefore, the level of Oct-4 expression in mice is vital for regulating pluripotency and early cell differentiation since one of its main functions is to keep the embryo from differentiating.


Orthologs of Oct-4 exist in humans and several other species including:

Species Entrez GeneID Chromosome Location RefSeq (mRNA) RefSeq (protein)
Mus musculus 18999 17,17 B1; 17 19.23 cM NC_000083.4, 35114104..35118822 (Plus Strand) NM_013633.1 NP_038661.1
Homo sapiens 5460 6, 6p21.31 NC_000006.10, 31246432-31240107 (Minus Strand) NM_002701.3 NP_002692.2 (full length isoform)
NP_002692.1 (N-terminal truncated isoform)
Rattus norvegicus 294562 20 NW_001084776, 650467-655015 (Minus strand) NM_001009178 NP_001009178
Danio rerio 303333 21 NC_007127.1, 27995548-28000317 (Minus strand) NM_131112 NP_571187

Structural Information

Oct-4 contains the following protein domains:

Domain Description Length (AA)
POU domain Found in Pit-Oct-Unc transcription factors 75
Homeodomain DNA binding domains involved in the transcriptional regulation of key eukaryotic developmental processes; may bind to DNA as monomers or as homo- and/or heterodimers, in a sequence-specific manner. 59

Implications in disease

Oct-4 has been implicated in tumorigenesis of adult germ cells. Ectopic expression of the factor in adult mice has been found to cause the formation of dysplastic lesions of the skin and intestine. The intestinal dysplasia resulted from an increase in progenitor cell population and the upregulation of β-catenin transcription through the inhibition of cellular differentiation.[7]

Animal model

In 2000, Niwa et al. used conditional expression and repression in murine embryonic stem (ES) cells to determine requirements for Oct-4 in the maintenance of developmental potency.[3] Although transcriptional determination has usually been considered as a binary on-off control system, they found that the precise level of Oct-4 governs 3 distinct fates of ES cells. A less-than-2-fold increase in expression causes differentiation into primitive endoderm and mesoderm. In contrast, repression of Oct-4 induces loss of pluripotency and dedifferentiation to trophectoderm. Thus, a critical amount of Oct-4 is required to sustain stem cell self-renewal, and up- or down regulation induces divergent developmental programs. Niwa et al. suggested that their findings established a role for Oct-4 as a master regulator of pluripotency that controls lineage commitment and illustrated the sophistication of critical transcriptional regulators and the consequent importance of quantitative analyzes.

The transcription factors Oct-4, Sox2 and Nanog are capable of inducing the expression of each other, and are essential for maintaining the self-renewing undifferentiated state of the inner cell mass of the blastocyst, as well as in embryonic stem cells (which are cell lines derived from the inner cell mass).[6]

Oct-4 is one of the transcription factors used to create induced pluripotent stem cells, together with Sox2, Klf4 and often c-Myc in mouse,[8][9][10] demonstrating its capacity to induce an embryonic stem cell-like state. It was later deterimined that only two of these four factors, Oct4 and Klf4 were sufficient to reprogram mouse adult neural stem cells.[11] Finally it was shown that a single factor, Oct-4 was sufficient for this transformation.[12]

In adult stem cells

Several studies suggest a role for Oct-4 in sustaining self-renewal capacity of adult somatic stem cells (i.e. stem cells from epithelium, bone marrow, liver, etc.).[13] Other scientists have produced evidence to the contrary,[14] and dismiss those studies as artifacts of in vitro culture, or interpreting background noise as signal,[15] and warn about Oct-4 pseudogenes giving false detection of Oct-4 expression.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Takeda J, Seino S, Bell GI (September 1992). "Human Oct3 gene family: cDNA sequences, alternative splicing, gene organization, chromosomal location, and expression at low levels in adult tissues". Nucleic Acids Res. 20 (17): 4613–20. doi:10.1093/nar/20.17.4613. PMC 334192. PMID 1408763. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=334192. 
  2. ^ Young Lab- Core Transcriptional Regulatory Circuitry in Human Embryonic Stem Cells at MIT
  3. ^ a b Niwa H, Miyazaki J, Smith AG (April 2000). "Quantitative expression of Oct-3/4 defines differentiation, dedifferentiation or self-renewal of ES cells". Nat. Genet. 24 (4): 372–6. doi:10.1038/74199. PMID 10742100. 
  4. ^ Looijenga LH, Stoop H, de Leeuw HP, et al. (2003). "POU5F1 (OCT3/4) identifies cells with pluripotent potential in human germ cell tumors". Cancer Res. 63 (9): 2244–50. PMID 12727846. 
  5. ^ Zaehres H, Lensch MW, Daheron L, Stewart SA, Itskovitz-Eldor J, Daley GQ (2005). "High-efficiency RNA interference in human embryonic stem cells". Stem Cells 23 (3): 299–305. doi:10.1634/stemcells.2004-0252. PMID 15749924. 
  6. ^ a b Rodda DJ, Chew JL, Lim LH, et al. (July 2005). "Transcriptional regulation of nanog by OCT4 and SOX2". J. Biol. Chem. 280 (26): 24731–7. doi:10.1074/jbc.M502573200. PMID 15860457. http://www.jbc.org/cgi/content/full/280/26/24731. 
  7. ^ Hochedlinger K, Yamada Y, Beard C, Jaenisch R (2005). "Ectopic expression of Oct-4 blocks progenitor-cell differentiation and causes dysplasia in epithelial tissues". Cell 121 (3): 465–77. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2005.02.018. PMID 15882627. 
  8. ^ Okita, Keisuke; Ichisaka, Tomoko; Yamanaka, Shinya (2007). "Generation of germline-competent induced pluripotent stem cells". Nature 448 (7151): 313–317. doi:10.1038/nature05934. PMID 17554338. 
  9. ^ Wernig, Marius; et al. (2007). "In vitro reprogramming of fibroblasts into a pluripotent ES-cell-like state". Nature 448 (7151): 318–324. doi:10.1038/nature05944. PMID 17554336. 
  10. ^ Maherali, N.; et al. (2007). "Directly reprogrammed fibroblasts show global epigenetic remodeling and widespread tissue contribution". Cell Stem Cell 1 (1): 55–70. doi:10.1016/j.stem.2007.05.014. PMID 18371336. 
  11. ^ Kim JB, Zaehres H, Wu G, Gentile L, Ko K, Sebastiano V, Araúzo-Bravo MJ, Ruau D, Han DW, Zenke M, Schöler HR (July 2008). "Pluripotent stem cells induced from adult neural stem cells by reprogramming with two factors". Nature 454 (7204): 646–50. doi:10.1038/nature07061. PMID 18594515. 
  12. ^ Kim JB, Sebastiano V, Wu G, Araúzo-Bravo MJ, Sasse P, Gentile L, Ko K, Ruau D, Ehrich M, van den Boom D, Meyer J, Hübner K, Bernemann C, Ortmeier C, Zenke M, Fleischmann BK, Zaehres M, Schöler HR (February 2009). "Oct4-Induced Pluripotency in Adult Neural Stem Cells". Cell 136 (3): 411–419. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2009.01.023. PMID 19203577. 
  13. ^ For example:
  14. ^ Lengner CJ, Camargo FD, Hochedlinger K, et al. (October 2007). "Oct4 expression is not required for mouse somatic stem cell self-renewal". Cell Stem Cell 1 (4): 403–15. doi:10.1016/j.stem.2007.07.020. PMC 2151746. PMID 18159219. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=2151746. 
  15. ^ Lengner CJ, Welstead GG, Jaenisch R (March 2008). "The pluripotency regulator Oct4: a role in somatic stem cells?". Cell Cycle 7 (6): 725–8. doi:10.4161/cc.7.6.5573. PMID 18239456. http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/cc/article/5573/. 
  16. ^ Zangrossi S, Marabese M, Broggini M, et al. (July 2007). "Oct-4 expression in adult human differentiated cells challenges its role as a pure stem cell marker". Stem Cells 25 (7): 1675–80. doi:10.1634/stemcells.2006-0611. PMID 17379765. 

Further reading

External links

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