Genetic tool for fate mapping of Oct4 (Pou5f1)-expressing cells and their progeny past the pluripotency stage

Andrey A. Kuzmin, Veronika V. Ermakova, Sergey A. Sinenko, Sergey V. Ponomartsev, Tatiana Y. Starkova, Elena V. Skvortsova, Olga Cherepanova, Alexey N. Tomilin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Methods based on site-specific recombinases are widely used in studying gene activities in vivo and in vitro. In these studies, constitutively active or inducible variants of these recombinases are expressed under the control of either lineage-specific or ubiquitous promoters. However, there is a need for more advanced schemes that combine these features with possibilities to choose a time point from which lineage tracing starts in an autonomous fashion. For example, the key mammalian germline gatekeeper gene Oct4 (Pou5f1) is expressed in the peri-implantation epiblast which gives rise to all cells within embryos. Thus the above techniques are hardly applicable to Oct4 tracing past the epiblast stage, and the establishment of genetic tools addressing such a limitation is a highly relevant pursuit. Methods: The CRISPR/Cas9 tool was used to manipulate the genome of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs), and various cell culture technics-to maintain and differentiate ESCs to neural cell, lentivirus-based reprogramming technique-to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Results: In this paper, we have developed a two-component genetic system (referred to as O4S) that allows tracing Oct4 gene activity past the epiblast stage of development. The first component represents a knock-in of an ubiquitous promoter-driven inducible Cre, serving as a stop signal for downstream tdTomato. Upon activation of Cre activity with 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4-OHT) at any given time point, the recombinase excises a stop signal and poses the second component of the system-the FlpO recombinase, knocked into 3'UTR of Oct4, to be expressed upon activation of the latter gene. Oct4-driven expression of FlpO, in turn, triggers the tdTomato expression and thus, permanently marks Oct4+ cells and their progeny. We have validated the O4S system in cultured ESCs and shown that it is capable, for example, to timely capture an activation of Oct4 gene during the reprogramming of somatic cells into iPSCs. Conclusions: The developed O4S system can be used to detect Oct4 activation event, both permanent and transient, in somatic cell types outside the germline. The approach can be equally adjusted to other genes, provided the first component of the system is placed under transcriptional control of these genes, thus, making it a valuable tool for cell fate mapping in mice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number391
JournalStem Cell Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 16 Dec 2019

Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Cell Biology


  • Cre-loxP
  • FlpO-FRT
  • Genome editing
  • Molecular sensor
  • Oct4
  • Pou5f1
  • Rosa26


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