Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are the embryonic precursors of the gametes. Thus, they are unipotent cells. However, PGCs share some common features with pluripotent stem cells. Among them, PGCs show alkaline phosphatase activity and express stage-specific embryonic antigens and pluripotency factors Lin28, Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog. Under specific conditions, they undergo spontaneous reprogramming in vivo. Moreover, they can be easily reprogrammed in vitro into pluripotent embryonic germ cells (EGCs) by culturing them in the presence of basic fibroblast growth factor or the epigenetic modulator trichostatin A. Previous work in our laboratory has also proven that hypoxia alone can reprogram PGCs into hypoxia-induced embryonic germ-like cells, which have a pluripotent phenotype but which do not show self-renewal capacity. Therefore, PGCs are an interesting model to further comprehensively understand the process of cell reprogramming. This chapter reviews various methods to achieve PGC reprogramming, as well as the molecular pathways involved. We focus on soluble factors and genetic strategies to obtain pluripotent cells from PGCs. Special emphasis will be given to factors implied in energetic metabolism, epigenetics, and cell signaling transduction, both in vitro and in vivo.
Part of the book: Germ Cell