Totipotent cells in early embryos are progenitors of all stem cells and are capable of developing into a whole organism, including extraembryonic tissues such as placenta. Pluripotent cells in the inner cell mass (ICM) are the descendants of totipotent cells and can differentiate into any cell type of a body except extraembryonic tissues. The ability to contribute to chimeric animals upon reintroduction into host embryos is the key feature of murine totipotent and pluripotent cells. Here, we demonstrate that rhesus monkey embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and isolated ICMs fail to incorporate into host embryos and develop into chimeras. However, chimeric offspring were produced following aggregation of totipotent cells of the four-cell embryos. These results provide insights into the species-specific nature of primate embryos and suggest that a chimera assay using pluripotent cells may not be feasible.
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