Scientific reports

The homeobox gene DLX4 promotes generation of human induced pluripotent stem cells.

PMID 25471527


The reprogramming of somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) by defined transcription factors has been a well-established technique and will provide an invaluable resource for regenerative medicine. However, the low reprogramming efficiency of human iPSC is still a limitation for clinical application. Here we showed that the reprogramming potential of human dental pulp cells (DPCs) obtained from immature teeth is much higher than those of mature teeth DPCs. Furthermore, immature teeth DPCs can be reprogrammed by OCT3/4 and SOX2, conversely these two factors are insufficient to convert mature teeth DPCs to pluripotent states. Using a gene expression profiles between these two DPC groups, we identified a new transcript factor, distal-less homeobox 4 (DLX4), which was highly expressed in immature teeth DPCs and significantly promoted human iPSC generation in combination with OCT3/4, SOX2, and KLF4. We further show that activation of TGF-β signaling suppresses the expression of DLX4 in DPCs and impairs the iPSC generation of DPCs. Our findings indicate that DLX4 can functionally replace c-MYC and supports efficient reprogramming of immature teeth DPCs.