Clinical and Translation Research Center of Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Signaling and Disease Research, School of Life Sciences and Technology, Tongji University, Shanghai, 200092, China. [Email]
Haploid embryonic stem cells (haESCs) contain only one set of genomes inherited from the sperm or egg and are termed AG- or PG-haESCs, respectively. Mammalian haESCs show genome-wide hypomethylation and dysregulated imprinting, whereas they can sustain genome integrity during derivation and long-term propagation. In addition, haESCs exhibit similar pluripotency to traditional diploid ESCs but are unique because they function as gametes and have been used to produce semi-cloned animals. More strikingly, unisexual reproduction has been achieved in mice by using haESCs. In combination with a gene editing or screening system, haESCs represent a powerful tool for studies of underlying gene functions and explorations of mechanisms of genetic and epigenetic regulation not only at the cellular level in vitro but also at the animal level in vivo. More importantly, genetically edited AG-haESC lines may further serve as an ideal candidate for the establishment of a sperm bank, which is a highly cost-effective approach, and a wide range of engineered semi-cloned mice have been produced. Here, we review the historical development, characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of haESCs. Additionally, we present an in-depth discussion of the recent advances in haESCs and their potential applications.