Human mid-trimester amniotic fluid (stem) cells lack expression of the pluripotency marker OCT4A.


University College London, Institute for Women's Health, Maternal and Fetal Medicine Department, London, UK. [Email]


Expression of OCT4A is one of the hallmarks of pluripotency, defined as a stem cell's ability to differentiate into all the lineages of the three germ layers. Despite being defined as non-tumorigenic cells with high translational potential, human mid-trimester amniotic fluid stem cells (hAFSCs) are often described as sharing features with embryonic stem cells, including the expression of OCT4A, which could hinder their clinical potential. To clarify the OCT4A status of hAFSCs, we first undertook a systematic review of the literature. We then performed extensive gene and protein expression analyses to discover that neither frozen, nor fresh hAFSCs cultivated in multipotent stem cell culture conditions expressed OCT4A, and that the OCT4A positive results from the literature are likely to be attributed to the expression of pseudogenes or other OCT4 variants. To address this issue, we provide a robust protocol for the assessment of OCT4A in other stem cells.