Dynamic regulation of connexins in stem cell pluripotency
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©AlphaMed Press 2019 Characterization of the pluripotent “ground state” has led to a greater understanding of species-specific stem cell differences and has imparted an appreciation of the pluripotency continuum that exists in stem cells in vitro. Pluripotent stem cells are functionally coupled via connexins that serve in gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) and here we report that the level of connexin expression in pluripotent stem cells depends upon the state in which stem cells exist in vitro. Human and mouse pluripotent stem cells stabilized in a developmentally primitive or “naïve” state exhibit significantly less connexin expression compared with stem cells which are “primed” for differentiation. This dynamic connexin expression pattern may be governed, in part, by differential regulation by pluripotency transcription factors expressed in each cell state. Species-specific differences do exist, however, with mouse stem cells expressing several additional connexin transcripts not found in human pluripotent stem cells. Moreover, pharmacological inhibition of GJIC shows limited impact on naïve human stem cell survival, self-renewal, and pluripotency but plays a more significant role in primed human pluripotent stem cells. However, CRISPR-Cas9 gene ablation of Cx43 in human and mouse primed and naïve pluripotent stem cells reveals that Cx43 is dispensable in each of these four pluripotent stem cell types.