Tiemann U, Marthaler AG, Adachi K, Wu G, Fischedick GU, Araúzo-Bravo MJ, Schöler HR, Tapia N
Differentiated cells can be reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) after overexpressing four transcription factors, of which Oct4 is essential. To elucidate the role of Oct4 during reprogramming, we investigated the immediate transcriptional response to inducible Oct4 overexpression in various somatic murine cell types using microarray analysis. By downregulating somatic-specific genes, Oct4 induction influenced each transcriptional program in a unique manner. A significant upregulation of pluripotent markers could not be detected. Therefore, OCT4 facilitates reprogramming by interfering with the somatic transcriptional network rather than by directly initiating a pluripotent gene-expression program. Finally, Oct4 overexpression upregulated the gene Mgarp in all the analyzed cell types. Strikingly, Mgarp expression decreases during the first steps of reprogramming due to a KLF4-dependent inhibition. At later stages, OCT4 counteracts the repressive activity of KLF4, thereby enhancing Mgarp expression. We show that this temporal expression pattern is crucial for the efficient generation of iPSCs.