Background: The transcription factor, octamer-binding transcription factor 4 (OCT4)/POU5F1, is expressed in embryonic stem cells, germ cells and some types of adult stem cells. Human OCT4 encodes two isoforms, OCT4A and OCT4B. While OCT4A plays a crucial role in the maintenance of stem cell properties, including pluripotency, whereas OCT4B does not. We previously reported that human myometrium contains side population cells (myoSP) with a Hoechst 33 342 low-fluorescent profile. These cells exhibit phenotypic and functional characteristics of myometrial stem cells. The objective of this study was to investigate the comparative expression of OCT4 in the stem/progenitor cell population of the human myometrium. Methods: Human myometrial tissue samples were collected from 18 consenting patients who underwent hysterectomy because of benign gynecological diseases. The resultant isolated or cultured myometrial cells and isolated myoSP were subjected to semi-quantitative and real-time RT-PCR analyses, immunoblot analyses and immunohistochemistry. Results: RT-PCR and immunoblot analyses revealed that OCT4 mRNA and OCT4 protein were detectable in some (but not all) myometrial samples. Immunohistochemistry showed that OCT4 protein was confined to the nuclei of relatively few cells in myometrial tissues expressing OCT4 mRNA. OCT4 and OCT4A transcripts, but not those of OCT4B, were more abundant in myoSP than in non-myoSP, as determined by real-time and semi-quantitative RT-PCR analyses. Conclusions: Relatively few myometrial cells express OCT4 protein. OCT4 mRNA, in particular OCT4A mRNA, is up-regulated in myoSP that have been reported to exhibit stem cell-like properties. Taken together, the present Results: indicate that the myoSP population is enriched in OCT4 mRNA.
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