Signalling pathway crosstalk stimulated by L-proline drives mouse embryonic stem cells to primitive-ectoderm-like cells

Hannah J. Glover, Holly Holliday, Rachel A. Shparberg, David Winkler, Margot Day, Michael B. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The amino acid L-proline exhibits growth factor-like properties during development - from improving blastocyst development to driving neurogenesis in vitro. Addition of 400 μM L-proline to self-renewal medium drives naïve mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) to early primitive ectoderm-like (EPL) cells - a transcriptionally distinct primed or partially primed pluripotent state. EPL cells retain expression of pluripotency genes, upregulate primitive ectoderm markers, undergo a morphological change and have increased cell number. These changes are facilitated by a complex signalling network hinging on the Mapk, Fgfr, Pi3k and mTor pathways. Here, we use a factorial experimental design coupled with statistical modelling to understand which signalling pathways are involved in the transition between ESCs and EPL cells, and how they underpin changes in morphology, cell number, apoptosis, proliferation and gene expression. This approach reveals pathways which work antagonistically or synergistically. Most properties were affected by more than one inhibitor, and each inhibitor blocked specific aspects of the naïve-to-primed transition. These mechanisms underpin progression of stem cells across the in vitro pluripotency continuum and serve as a model for pre-, peri- and post-implantation embryogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdev201704
Number of pages14
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2023


  • Amino acid
  • Cell signalling
  • Growth factor
  • L-proline
  • Mouse embryonic stem cell
  • Primitive ectoderm

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