Exploitation of embryonic stem cells (ESC) for therapeutic use and biomedical applications is severely hampered by the risk of teratocarcinoma formation. Here, we performed a screen of selected epi-modulating compounds and demonstrate that a transient exposure of mouse ESC to MS-275 (Entinostat), a class I histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDAC), modulates differentiation and prevents teratocarcinoma formation. Morphological and molecular data indicate that MS-275-primed ESCs are committed towards neural differentiation, which is supported by transcriptome analyses. Interestingly, in vitro withdrawal of MS-275 reverses the primed cells to the pluripotent state. In vivo, MS275-primed ES cells injected into recipient mice give only rise to benign teratomas but not teratocarcinomas with prevalence of neural-derived structures. In agreement, MS-275-primed ESC are unable to colonize blastocysts. These findings provide evidence that a transient alteration of acetylation alters the ESC fate.
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