A transcription factor thought to be a marker of pluripotency in both embryonic (ES) and adult stem cells is not involved in adult stem cell regulation, according to a study published this week in Cell Stem Cell. "Pluripotency — if such a thing exists in adult cells — is governed by different mechanisms than it is in ES cells," the study's first author, Christopher Lengner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The Scientist. The octamer-binding transcription factor 4 (Oct4) has long been known as a marker of the ES cells, playing a critical role in maintaining both pluripotency and the ability to self-renew. Oct4 expression is suppressed in terminally differentiated cells. More than 50 recent papers have also reported that it is expressed in adult stem cells from tissue as diverse as skin, brain, and blood — raising the question of whether Oct4 is a...

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