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Biological Chemistry

Editor-in-Chief: Brüne, Bernhard

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Volume 389, Issue 7 (Jul 2008)


Oct4 expression revisited: potential pitfalls for data misinterpretation in stem cell research

Stefanie Liedtke
  • 1Institute for Transplantation Diagnostics and Cell Therapeutics, Heinrich Heine University Medical Center, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany
/ Milaid Stephan
  • 2Institute for Transplantation Diagnostics and Cell Therapeutics, Heinrich Heine University Medical Center, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany
/ Gesine Kögler
  • 3Institute for Transplantation Diagnostics and Cell Therapeutics, Heinrich Heine University Medical Center, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany
Published Online: 2008-06-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/BC.2008.098


The octamer-binding transcription factor 4 gene encodes a nuclear protein (Oct4, also known as Pou5F1 and Oct3/4) that belongs to a family of transcription factors containing the POU DNA-binding domain. Expression can be detected in embryonic stem cells as well as in adult stem cells, such as bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. Expression of Oct4 is downregulated coincident with stem cell differentiation and loss of expression leading to differentiation. A role for maintaining pluripotency and self-renewal of embryonic stem cells is ascribed to Oct4 as a pluripotency marker. Results describing Oct4 expression in differentiated cells, including peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), neonatal and adult stem cells, as well as cancer cells, must be interpreted with caution. In several publications, Oct4 has been ascribed a function in maintaining self-renewal of adult stem cells. In contrast, other publications reported Oct4 expression in human tumor cells. Here, we summarize the recent findings on Oct4 expression and present possibilities and reasons why several false positive results on Oct4 expression still occur in the recent literature. Also, simple solutions are provided to avoid these positive signals.

Keywords: adult stem cells; alternative splicing; differentiated cells; pluripotency; stem cell marker

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Corresponding author

Published Online: 2008-06-06

Published in Print: 2008-07-01

Citation Information: Biological Chemistry, ISSN (Online) 1437-4315, ISSN (Print) 1431-6730, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/BC.2008.098. Export Citation

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