The cell cycle inhibitor p27Kip1 controls self-renewal and pluripotency of human embryonic stem cells by regulating the cell cycle, Brachyury and Twist

Cristina Menchón, Michael J. Edel, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The continued turn over of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) while maintaining an undifferentiated state is dependent on the regulation of the cell cycle. Here we asked the question if a single cell cycle gene could regulate the self-renewal or pluripotency properties of hESC. We identified that the protein expression of the p27Kip1 cell cycle inhibitor is low in hESC cells and increased with differentiation. By adopting a gain and loss of function strategy we forced or reduced its expression in undifferentiating conditions to define its functional role in self-renewal and pluripotency. Using undifferentiation conditions, overexpression of p27Kip1 in hESC lead to a G1 phase arrest with an enlarged and flattened hESC morphology and consequent loss of self-renewal ability. Loss of p27Kip1 caused an elongated/scatter cell-like phenotype involving upregulation of Brachyury and Twist gene expression. We demonstrate the novel finding that p27Kip1 protein occupies the Twist1 gene promoter and manipulation of p27 Kip1 by gain and loss of function is associated with Twist gene expression changes. These results define p27Kip1 expression levels as critical for self-renewal and pluripotency in hESC and suggest a role for p27Kip1 in controlling an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in hESC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1435-1447
Number of pages13
JournalCell Cycle
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2011


  • Cell cycle
  • Differentiation
  • Embryonic stem cell
  • Induced pluripotent stem cell
  • Pluripotency
  • Self renewal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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