New Study Finds Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells Have No Special Requirement for Threonine

WASHINGTON, Sept. 07, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A recently published article in Experimental Biology and Medicine (Volume 247, Issue 15, August, 2022) challenges that mouse embryonic stem cells are dependent on threonine. The study, led by Dr. Jian Feng in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the State University of New York, Buffalo, finds that mouse embryonic stem cells do not have a unique requirement for threonine.  

Threonine is an amino acid used in the biosynthesis of proteins. An influential study published in 2009 claims that the growth and proliferation of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) have a unique dependence on threonine. The study has generated significant interest and many subsequent papers are published based on this claim. It has become accepted that mESCs have a special requirement for threonine to grow and multiply.

In this study, Drs. Feng and Boyang Zhang replicate the experiments in the previous study and use the serum-free, 2i/LIF medium to test if mESCs have a dependence on threonine. In the individual absence of methionine or valine, the growth and proliferation of mESCs in serum are as severely affected as in the absence of threonine. Removing even a non-essential amino acid such as arginine or glutamine significantly attenuates the growth and proliferation of mESCs. The present study thus set the record straight on the amino acid requirement of mESCs by finding that, just like most types of cells, mESCs do not have a special requirement for threonine. The study will move the field forward to a more comprehensive understanding of cellular metabolism in mESCs, which serve as the bedrock of stem cell biology because they can generate all types of cells in a mouse.

Drs. Feng and Zhang said: "We were very excited by the previous paper claiming the unique requirement of threonine in mESCs and wanted to understand why. To our surprise, our experiments show that there is nothing unique about threonine; mESCs cannot grow in the individual absence of many other amino acids. We thank Experimental Biology and Medicine for letting us set the record straight."

Dr. Steven R. Goodman, Editor-in-Chief of Experimental Biology and Medicine, said, "Zhang and Feng have tested the dogma that mesenchymal stem cells (mESCs) have a unique requirement for threonine when cultured in medium containing serum and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF). Their study clearly demonstrates that the growth and proliferation of mESCs in serum/LIF or in a serum-free medium (2i/LIF) requires many essential and non-essential amino acids. This study provides clarity for those working in the stem cell field on the amino acid requirements of mESCs."

Experimental Biology and Medicine is a global journal dedicated to the publication of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in the biomedical sciences. The journal was first established in 1903. Experimental Biology and Medicine is the journal of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine. To learn about the benefits of society membership, visit If you are interested in publishing in the journal, please visit

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