Dynamic changes in energy metabolism upon embryonic stem cell differentiation support developmental toxicant identification

D.A.M. van Dartel, S.H. Schulpen, P.T. Theunissen, A. Bunschoten, A.H. Piersma, J. Keijer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Embryonic stem cells (ESC) are widely used to study embryonic development and to identify developmental toxicants. Particularly, the embryonic stem cell test (EST) is well known as in vitro model to identify developmental toxicants. Although it is clear that energy metabolism plays a crucial role in embryonic development, the modulation of energy metabolism in in vitro models, such as the EST, is not yet described. The present study is among the first studies that analyses whole genome expression data to specifically characterize metabolic changes upon ESC early differentiation. Our transcriptomic analyses showed activation of glycolysis, truncated activation of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, activation of lipid synthesis, as well as activation of glutaminolysis during the early phase of ESC differentiation. Taken together, this energy metabolism profile points towards energy metabolism reprogramming in the provision of metabolites for biosynthesis of cellular constituents. Next, we defined a gene set that describes this energy metabolism profile. We showed that this gene set could be successfully applied in the EST to identify developmental toxicants known to modulate cellular biosynthesis (5-fluorouracil and methoxyacetic acid), while other developmental toxicants or the negative control did not modulate the expression of this gene set. Our description of dynamic changes in energy metabolism during early ESC differentiation, as well as specific identification of developmental toxicants modulating energy metabolism, is an important step forward in the definition of the applicability domain of the EST.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-87
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • gene-expression
  • neural differentiation
  • proliferation
  • toxicity
  • cardiomyocytes
  • normalization
  • glycolysis
  • genomics
  • protocol
  • biology


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