Derivation of female mouse embryonic stem cells under certain conditions induces a loss of DNA methylation and erasure of genomic imprints, which are not recovered and that may contribute to observed impaired development.
Inhibitors of Mek1/2 and Gsk3β, known as 2i, enhance the derivation of embryonic stem (ES) cells and promote ground-state pluripotency in rodents1,2. Here we show that the derivation of female mouse ES cells in the presence of 2i and leukaemia inhibitory factor (2i/L ES cells) results in a widespread loss of DNA methylation, including a massive erasure of genomic imprints. Despite this global loss of DNA methylation, early-passage 2i/L ES cells efficiently differentiate into somatic cells, and this process requires genome-wide de novo DNA methylation. However, the majority of imprinting control regions (ICRs) remain unmethylated in 2i/L-ES-cell-derived differentiated cells. Consistently, 2i/L ES cells exhibit impaired autonomous embryonic and placental development by tetraploid embryo complementation or nuclear transplantation. We identified the derivation conditions of female ES cells that display 2i/L-ES-cell-like transcriptional signatures while preserving gamete-derived DNA methylation and autonomous developmental potential. Upon prolonged culture, however, female ES cells exhibited ICR demethylation regardless of culture conditions. Our results provide insights into the derivation of female ES cells reminiscent of the inner cell mass of preimplantation embryos.