Germ cell nuclear factor (GCNF) represses Oct4 expression and globally modulates gene expression in human embryonic stem (hes) cells

Hongran Wang, Xiaohong Wang, Xueping Xu, Michael Kyba, Austin J. Cooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Oct4 is considered a key transcription factor for pluripotent stem cell self-renewal. It binds to specific regions within target genes to regulate their expression and is downregulated upon induction of differentiation of pluripotent stem cells; however, the mechanisms that regulate the levels of human Oct4 expression remain poorly understood. Hereweshow that expression of human Oct4 is directly repressed by germ cell nuclear factor (GCNF), an orphan nuclear receptor, in hES cells. Knockdown of GCNF by siRNA resulted in maintenance of Oct4 expression during RA-induced hES cell differentiation. While overexpression of GCNF promoted repression of Oct4 expression in both undifferentiated and differentiated hES cells. The level of Oct4 repression was dependent on the level of GCNF expression in a dose-dependent manner. mRNA microarray analysis demonstrated that overexpression of GCNF globally regulates gene expression in undifferentiated and differentiated hES cells. Within the group of altered genes, GCNF down-regulated 36% of the genes, and up-regulated 64% in undifferentiated hES cells. In addition, GCNF also showed a regulatory gene pattern that is different from RA treatment during hES cell differentiation. These findings increase our understanding of the mechanisms that maintain hES cell pluripotency and regulate gene expression during the differentiation process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8644-8652
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 15 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant P01 GM081627 (to A. J. C.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc. Published in the U.S.A.


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