The Journal of cell biology

Inhibition of β-catenin-TCF1 interaction delays differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells.

PMID 26459597


The ability of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to self-renew or differentiate into various cell lineages is regulated by signaling pathways and a core pluripotency transcriptional network (PTN) comprising Nanog, Oct4, and Sox2. The Wnt/β-catenin pathway promotes pluripotency by alleviating T cell factor TCF3-mediated repression of the PTN. However, it has remained unclear how β-catenin's function as a transcriptional activator with TCF1 influences mESC fate. Here, we show that TCF1-mediated transcription is up-regulated in differentiating mESCs and that chemical inhibition of β-catenin/TCF1 interaction improves long-term self-renewal and enhances functional pluripotency. Genetic loss of TCF1 inhibited differentiation by delaying exit from pluripotency and conferred a transcriptional profile strikingly reminiscent of self-renewing mESCs with high Nanog expression. Together, our data suggest that β-catenin's function in regulating mESCs is highly context specific and that its interaction with TCF1 promotes differentiation, further highlighting the need for understanding how its individual protein-protein interactions drive stem cell fate.