Phenotypical and ultrastructural features of Oct4-positive cells in the adult mouse lung

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Octamer binding trascription factor 4 (Oct4) is a transcription factor of POU family specifically expressed in embryonic stem cells (ESCs). A role for maintaining pluripotency and self-renewal of ESCs is assigned to Oct4 as a pluripotency marker. Oct4 can also be detected in adult stem cells such as bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. Several studies suggest a role for Oct4 in sustaining self-renewal capacity of adult stem cells. However, Oct4 gene ablation in adult stem cells revealed no abnormalities in tissue turnover or regenerative capacity. In the present study we have conspicuously found pulmonary Oct4-positive cells closely resembling the morphology of telocytes (TCs). These cells were found in the perivascular and peribronchial areas and their presence and location were confirmed by electron microscopy. Moreover, we have used Oct4-GFP transgenic mice which revealed a similar localization of the Oct4-GFP signal. We also found that Oct4 co-localized with several described TC markers such as vimentin, Sca-1, platelet-derived growth factor receptor-beta C-kit and VEGF. By flow cytometry analyses carried out with Oct4-GFP reporter mice, we described a population of EpCAMneg/CD45neg/Oct4-GFPpos that in culture displayed TC features. These results were supported by qRT-PCR with mRNA isolated from lungs by using laser capture microdissection. In addition, Oct4-positive cells were found to express Nanog and Klf4 mRNA. It is concluded for the first time that TCs in adult lung mouse tissue comprise Oct4-positive cells, which express pluripotency-related genes and represent therefore a population of adult stem cells which might contribute to lung regeneration.

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