Differential Expression of OCT4 Pseudogenes in Pluripotent and Tumor Cell Lines

Document Type : Original Article



The human OCT4 gene, the most important pluripotency marker, can generate at least three different transcripts (OCT4A, OCT4B, and OCT4B1) by alternative splicing. OCT4A is the main isoform responsible for the stemness property of embryonic stem (ES) cells. There also exist eight processed OCT4 pseudogenes in the human genome with high homology to the OCT4A, some of which are transcribed in various cancers. Recent conflicting reports on OCT4 expression in tumor cells and tissues emphasize the need to discriminate the expression of OCT4A from other variants as well as OCT4 pseudogenes.
Materials and Methods
In this experimental study, DNA sequencing confirmed the authenticity of transcripts of OCT4 pseudogenes and their expression patterns were investigated in a panel of different human cell lines by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
Differential expression of OCT4 pseudogenes in various human cancer and pluripotent cell lines was observed. Moreover, the expression pattern of OCT4-pseudogene 3 (OCT4-pg3) followed that of OCT4A during neural differentiation of the pluripotent cell line of NTERA-2 (NT2). Although OCT4-pg3 was highly expressed in undifferentiated NT2 cells, its expression was rapidly down-regulated upon induction of neural differentiation. Analysis of protein expression of OCT4A, OCT4-pg1, OCT4-pg3, and OCT4-pg4 by Western blotting indicated that OCT4 pseudogenes cannot produce stable proteins. Consistent with a newly proposed competitive role of pseudogene microRNA docking sites, we detected miR-145 binding sites on all transcripts of OCT4 and OCT4 pseudogenes.
Our study suggests a potential coding-independent function for OCT4 pseudogenes during differentiation or tumorigenesis.