The paradox of Foxd3: how does it function in pluripotency and differentiation of embryonic stem cells?
Uncommitted cells of the early mammalian embryo transition through distinct stages of pluripotency, including establishment of ground state “naïve” pluripotency in the early epiblast, transition to a post-implantation “primed” state, and subsequent lineage commitment of the gastrulating epiblast. Previous transcriptional profiling of in vitro models to recapitulate early to late epiblast transition and differentiation suggest that distinct gene regulatory networks are likely to function in each of these states. While the mechanisms underlying transition between pluripotent states are poorly understood, the forkhead family transcription factor Foxd3 has emerged as a key regulatory factor. Foxd3 is required to maintain pluripotent cells of the murine epiblast and for survival, self-renewal and pluripotency of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Two recent, simultaneous studies have shed light on how Foxd3 regulates gene expression in early cell fate transitions of progenitor cells. While the two publications shared some common findings, they also presented some conflicting results and suggest different models for the mechanisms underlying Foxd3 function. Here, we discuss the key similarities and differences between the publications, highlight data from the literature relevant to their findings, and hypothesize a potential mechanism of Foxd3 action.