Ding V, Lew QJ, Chu KL, Natarajan S, Rajasegaran V, et al. (2013) HEXIM1 Induces Differentiation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72823. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072823
Hexamethylene bisacetamide inducible protein 1 (HEXIM1) is best known as the inhibitor of positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb), which is composed of cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9)/cyclin T1. P-TEFb is an essential regulator for the transcriptional elongation by RNA polymerase II. A genome-wide study using human embryonic stem cells shows that most mRNA synthesis is regulated at the stage of transcription elongation, suggesting a possible role for P-TEFb/HEXIM1 in the gene regulation of stem cells. In this report, we detected a marked increase in HEXIM1 protein levels in the differentiated human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) induced by LY294002 treatment. Since no changes in CDK9 and cyclin T1 were observed in the LY294002-treated cells, increased levels of HEXIM1 might lead to inhibition of P-TEFb activity. However, treatment with a potent P-TEFb inhibiting compound, flavopiridol, failed to induce hPSC differentiation, ruling out the possible requirement for P-TEFb kinase activity in hPSC differentiation. Conversely, differentiation was observed when hPSCs were incubated with hexamethylene bisacetamide, a HEXIM1 inducing reagent. The involvement of HEXIM1 in the regulation of hPSCs was further supported when overexpression of HEXIM1 concomitantly induced hPSC differentiation. Collectively, our study demonstrates a novel role of HEXIM1 in regulating hPSC fate through a P-TEFb-independent pathway.