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BAY11 enhances OCT4 synthetic mRNA expression in adult human skin cells

Jason P Awe12, Agustin Vega Crespo12, You Li3, Megerditch Kiledjian3 and James A Byrne12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, University of California, Los Angeles, 650 Charles E. Young Drive South, 23-120 Center for Health Sciences, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA

2 Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, University of California, Los Angeles, 615 Charles E Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA

3 Department of Cell Biology & Neuroscience, Rutgers University, 604 Allison Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA

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Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2013, 4:15  doi:10.1186/scrt163

Published: 6 February 2013



The OCT4 transcription factor is involved in many cellular processes, including development, reprogramming, maintaining pluripotency and differentiation. Synthetic OCT4 mRNA was recently used (in conjunction with other reprogramming factors) to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells. Here, we discovered that BAY 11-7082 (BAY11), at least partially through an NF-κB-inhibition based mechanism, could significantly increase the expression of OCT4 following transfection of synthetic mRNA (synRNA) into adult human skin cells.


We tested various chemical and molecular small molecules on their ability to suppress the innate immune response seen upon synthetic mRNA transfection. Three molecules - B18R, BX795, and BAY11 - were used in immunocytochemical and proliferation-based assays. We also utilized global transcriptional meta-analysis coupled with quantitative PCR to identify relative gene expression downstream of OCT4.


We found that human skin cells cultured in the presence of BAY11 resulted in reproducible increased expression of OCT4 that did not inhibit normal cell proliferation. The increased levels of OCT4 resulted in significantly increased expression of genes downstream of OCT4, including the previously identified SPP1, DUSP4 and GADD45G, suggesting the expressed OCT4 was functional. We also discovered a novel OCT4 putative downstream target gene SLC16A9 which demonstrated significantly increased expression following elevation of OCT4 levels.


For the first time we have shown that small molecule-based stabilization of synthetic mRNA expression can be achieved with use of BAY11. This small molecule-based inhibition of innate immune responses and subsequent robust expression of transfected synthetic mRNAs may have multiple applications for future cell-based research and therapeutics.