Dynamic ABCG2 expression in human embryonic stem cells provides the basis for stress response

Zsuzsa Erdei, Balázs Sarkadi, Anna Brózik, Kornélia Szebényi, György Várady, Veronika Makó, Adrienn Péntek, Tamás I. Orbán, Ágota Apáti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)


ABCG2 is a plasma membrane multidrug transporter with an established role in the cancer drug-resistance phenotype. This protein is expressed in a variety of tissues, including several types of stem cell. Although ABCG2 is not essential for life, knock-out mice were found to be hypersensitive to xenobiotics and had reduced levels of the side population of hematopoietic stem cells. Previously we have shown that ABCG2 is present in human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines, with a heterogeneous expression pattern. In this study we examined this heterogeneity, and investigated whether it is related to stress responses in hESCs. We did not find any difference between expression of pluripotency markers in ABCG2-positive and negative hESCs; however, ABCG2-expressing cells had a higher growth rate after cell separation. We found that some harmful conditions (physical stress, drugs, and UV light exposure) are tolerated much better in the presence of ABCG2 protein. This property can be explained by the transporter function which eliminates potential toxic metabolites accumulated during stress conditions. In contrast, mild oxidative stress in hESCs caused rapid internalization of ABCG2, indicating that some environmental factors may induce removal of this transporter from the plasma membrane. On the basis of these results we suggest that a dynamic balance of ABCG2 expression at the population level has the advantage of enabling prompt response to changes in the cellular environment. Such actively maintained heterogeneity might be of evolutionary benefit in protecting special cell types, including pluripotent stem cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-179
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Biophysics Journal
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • ABCG2 multidrug transporter protein
  • Human embryonic stem cells
  • Pluripotency
  • Stress conditions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics

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