Biochem Pharmacol. 2020 Jul;177:113984.doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2020.113984. Epub 2020 Apr 18.

Ethyl-p-methoxycinnamate enhances oct4 expression and reinforces pluripotency through the NF-κB signaling pathway

Huihan Ai  1 Hongshuang Qin  1 Jiawei Li  2 Chunxue Niu  2 Zhenbo Song  1 Yongli Bao  3 Luguo Sun  1 Lihua Zheng  4 Yuxin Li  2 Affiliations


Pluripotent stem cells are have therapeutic applications in regenerative medicine and drug discovery. However, the differentiation of stem cells in vitro hinders their large-scale production and clinical applications. The maintenance of cell pluripotency relies on a complex network of transcription factors; of these, octamer-binding transcription factor-4 (Oct4) plays a key role. This study aimed to construct an Oct4 gene promoter-driven firefly luciferase reporter and screen small-molecule compounds could maintain cell self-renewal and pluripotency. The results showed that ethyl-p-methoxycinnamate (EPMC) enhance the promoter activity of the Oct4 gene, increased the expression of Oct4 at both mRNA and protein levels, and significantly promoted the colony formation of P19 cells. These findings suggesting that EPMC could reinforce the self-renewal capacity of P19 cells. The pluripotency markers Oct4, SRY-related high-mobility-group-box protein-2, and Nanog were expressed at higher levels in EPMC-induced colonies. EPMC could promote teratoma formation and differentiation potential of P19 cells in vivo. It also enhanced self-renewal and pluripotency of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells and mouse embryonic stem cells. Moreover, it significantly activated the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) signaling pathway via the myeloid differentiation factor 88-dependent pathway. The expression level of Oct4 decreased after blocking the NF-κB signaling pathway, suggesting that EPMC promoted the expression of Oct4 partially through the NF-κB signaling pathway. This study indicated that EPMC could maintain self-renewal and pluripotency of stem cells.

Keywords: Ethyl-p-methoxycinnamate; NF-κB signaling pathway; Oct4; Pluripotency; Self-renewal; Stem cell.