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Insulin increases epiblast cell number of in vitro cultured mouse embryos via the PI3K/GSK3/p53 pathway.

  • Campbell, Jared M
  • Nottle, Mark B
  • Vassiliev, Ivan
  • Mitchell, Megan
  • Lane, Michelle
Published Article
Stem Cells and Development
Mary Ann Liebert
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2012
DOI: 10.1089/scd.2011.0598
PMID: 22339667


High-quality embryos give rise to embryonic stem cells (ESCs) at greater efficiencies than poor-quality embryos. However, most embryos available for human ESC derivation are of a reduced quality as a result of culture in relatively simple media up to 10 years earlier, before cryopreservation, or before compaction. In the present study, we used a mouse model to determine whether a culture with insulin from the 8-cell stage could increase the number of ESC progenitor epiblast cells in blastocysts, as well as endeavor to determine the molecular mechanism of the insulin's effect. Culture in media containing 1.7 ρM insulin increased epiblast cell number (determined by Oct4 and Nanog co-expression), and proportion in day 6 blastocysts. The inhibition of phosphoinositide 3 kinase (PI3K) (via LY294002), an early second messenger of the insulin receptor, blocked this effect. The inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) or p53, 2 s messengers inactivated by insulin signaling (via CT99021 or pifithrin-α, respectively), increased epiblast cell numbers. When active, GSK3 and p53 block the transcription of Nanog, which is important for maintaining pluripotency. A simultaneous inhibition of GSK3 and p53 had no synergistic effects on epiblast cell number. The induced activation of GSK3 and p53, via the inhibition of proteins responsible for their inactivation (PKA via H-89 and SIRT-1 via nicotinamide, respectively), blocked the insulin's effect on the epiblast.From our findings, we conclude that insulin increases epiblast cell number via the activation of PI3K, which ultimately inactivates GSK3 and p53. Furthermore, we suggest that the inclusion of insulin in culture media could be used as a strategy for increasing the efficiency with which the ESC lines can be derived from cultured embryos.

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