1 September 2020

From pluripotency to totipotency: an experimentalist's guide to cellular potency

Riveiro, A. R., and Brickman, J. M. (2020). From pluripotency to totipotency: an experimentalist's guide to cellular potency. Development147. doi: 10.1242/dev.189845. 


Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are derived from the pre-implantation mammalian blastocyst. At this point in time, the newly formed embryo is concerned with the generation and expansion of both the embryonic lineages required to build the embryo and the extra-embryonic lineages that support development. When used in grafting experiments, embryonic cells from early developmental stages can contribute to both embryonic and extra-embryonic lineages, but it is generally accepted that ESCs can give rise to only embryonic lineages. As a result, they are referred to as pluripotent, rather than totipotent. Here, we consider the experimental potential of various ESC populations and a number of recently identified in vitro culture systems producing states beyond pluripotency and reminiscent of those observed during pre-implantation development. We also consider the nature of totipotency and the extent to which cell populations in these culture systems exhibit this property.