Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are capable of unlimited self-renewal while maintaining pluripotency. They are of great interest in regenerative medicine due to their ability to differentiate into all cell types of the three embryonic germ layers. Recently, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have shown similarities to ESCs and thus promise great therapeutic potential in regenerative medicine. Despite progress in stem cell biology, our understanding of the exact mechanisms by which pluripotency and self-renewal are established and maintained is largely unknown. A better understanding of these processes may lead to discovery of alternative ways for reprogramming, differentiation and more reliable applications of stem cells in therapies. It has become evident that proteins generally function as members of large complexes that are part of a more complex network. Therefore, the identification of protein-protein interactions (PPI) is an efficient strategy for understanding protein function and regulation. Systematic genome-wide and pathway-specific PPI analysis of ESCs has generated a network of ESC proteins, including major transcription factors. These PPI networks of ESCs may contribute to a mechanistic understanding of self-renewal and pluripotency. In this review we describe different experimental approaches for the identification of PPIs along with various databases. We discuss biological findings and technical challenges encountered with interactome studies of pluripotent stem cells, and provide insight into how interactomics is likely to develop.
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