In mammalian embryos, PGCs (primordial germ cells) are specified from a pluripotent epiblast cell population after implantation. In this study, we demonstrated an essential role for the germline-specific transcription factor Oct3/4 in PGC specification. We generated chimeric embryos with ZHBTc4 ES cells lacking both alleles of the Oct3/4 gene (pou5f1). Pluripotency was maintained by an Oct3/4 transgene, and its expression was suppressed by doxycycline (Dox). Transcription of the Oct3/4 transgene in the ES-derived cells unexpectedly suffered constitutive suppression in chimeric embryos without Dox, and the ES-derived cells contributed to PGC precursor-like cells, but failed to form PGCs. We then attempted to rescue Oct3/4 expression in the ES-derived cells in the chimeric embryos by introducing an additional Oct3/4 transgene. The ES cell-derived cells indeed recovered Oct3/4 transcription in these chimeric embryos, and were successfully specified to PGCs. We further confirmed the requirement of Oct3/4 by using another derivative of ZHBTc4 ES cells in which a Dex (dexamethasone)-dependent Oct3/4 transgene was introduced. In the presence of Dox, Oct3/4 protein was absent in the nuclei of the ES-derived cells, which failed to form PGCs. In contrast, the ES-derived cells could be specified to PGCs after activation of Oct3/4 function in the presence of Dex.
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