Naïve-like pluripotency to pave the way for saving the northern white rhinoceros from extinction

Vera Zywitza, Ejona Rusha, Dmitry Shaposhnikov, Jorge Ruiz-Orera, Narasimha Telugu, Valentyna Rishko, Masafumi Hayashi, Geert Michel, Lars Wittler, Jan Stejskal, Susanne Holtze, Frank Göritz, Robert Hermes, Jichang Wang, Zsuzsanna Izsvák, Silvia Colleoni, Giovanna Lazzari, Cesare Galli, Thomas B. Hildebrandt, Katsuhiko HayashiSebastian Diecke, Micha Drukker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The northern white rhinoceros (NWR) is probably the earth’s most endangered mammal. To rescue the functionally extinct species, we aim to employ induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to generate gametes and subsequently embryos in vitro. To elucidate the regulation of pluripotency and differentiation of NWR PSCs, we generated iPSCs from a deceased NWR female using episomal reprogramming, and observed surprising similarities to human PSCs. NWR iPSCs exhibit a broad differentiation potency into the three germ layers and trophoblast, and acquire a naïve-like state of pluripotency, which is pivotal to differentiate PSCs into primordial germ cells (PGCs). Naïve culturing conditions induced a similar expression profile of pluripotency related genes in NWR iPSCs and human ESCs. Furthermore, naïve-like NWR iPSCs displayed increased expression of naïve and PGC marker genes, and a higher integration propensity into developing mouse embryos. As the conversion process was aided by ectopic BCL2 expression, and we observed integration of reprogramming factors, the NWR iPSCs presented here are unsuitable for gamete production. However, the gained insights into the developmental potential of both primed and naïve-like NWR iPSCs are fundamental for in future PGC-specification in order to rescue the species from extinction using cryopreserved somatic cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3100
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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