Genesis of a new individual starts by fusion of the female egg and male sperm forming the fertilized egg called the zygote. This single cell will divide and the repeated division of its daughter cells will eventually give rise to approximately 100 million million cells that constitute an adult human being. Along this path of development the cells will acquire specialized features and skills necessary for performing their specific function within the organism; the cells have differentiated. If and how a cell will differentiate is dependent on the potency of the cell and the stimuli it receives from the environment. The first cell(s) of the embryo can differentiate to the complete gamut of somatic cells and germ cells, and are therefore pluripotent. The process of differentiation of germ cells starts in the first weeks of embryonal development and culminates in the formation of highly specialized germ cells, i.e. egg and spermatozoon, around puberty. Germ cells that fail to properly differentiate during development can give rise to germ cell tumors. Depending on the time point of derailment of normal germ cell development, different types of germ cell tumors can arise. This thesis focuses on germ cell tumors of adolescents and young adults that derive from an early germ cell that has not yet differentiated to a cell committed to male or female germ cell development. Reminiscent of their origin these tumors are pluripotent and have features that are only present in cells of early embryonic development. This includes the presence of proteins involved in regulation of pluripotency like OCT3/4, also known as POU5F1. Because OCT3/4 is unique to stem cells and germ cells in the early embryo and normally not present in the adult human, we can use OCT3/4 in diagnosis of germ cell tumors in adults.

Looijenga, Prof. Dr. L.H.J. (promotor) Oosterhuis, Prof. Dr. J.W. (promotor) Erasmus MC (Translational Research grant)
J.W. Oosterhuis (Wolter)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

de Jong, J. (2007, November 14). Stem Cell Marker OCT3/4 in Biology and Diagnostics of Germ Cell Tumors. Retrieved from