While the rabbit (. Oryctolagus cuniculus) is an important research model for aspects of human development and disease that cannot be studied in rodents, the lack of data on the genetic regulation of rabbit preimplantation development is a limitation. To assist in the understanding of this process, our aim was to isolate and characterize genes necessary for the induction and maintenance of cellular pluripotency. We are the first to report the isolation of complete coding regions of rabbit SOX2, KLF4, C-MYC and NANOG, which encode transcription factors that play crucial regulatory roles during early mammalian embryonic development.We determined the exon-intron boundaries and chromosomal localization of these genes using computational analysis. The sequences of mRNA and translated protein of the newly identified genes and those of POU5F1 were aligned to their mammalian orthologs to determine the degree of evolutionary conservation. Furthermore, the expression of these genes in embryonic and adult cells was studied at the mRNA and protein levels. We found the sequences and the expression pattern of these pluripotency-associated genes to be highly conserved between human and rabbit, indicating that the rabbit would be a valuable model for human preimplantation development. Implementing the newly identified genes either as biomarkers or as reprogramming factors might also pave the way towards the creation of stable pluripotent rabbit cell lines.
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