Embryonic stem cells as an in vitro model for mutagenicity, cytotoxicity and embryotoxicity studies: Present state and future prospects

Research output: Contribution to journalShort survey/reviewContributedpeer-review


  • J. Rohwedel - , University of Lübeck (Author)
  • K. Guan - , Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (Author)
  • C. Hegert - , University of Lübeck (Author)
  • A. M. Wobus - , Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (Author)


Primary cultures or established cell lines of vertebrates are commonly used to analyse the mutagenic, embryotoxic or teratogenic potential of environmental factors, drugs and xenobiotics in vitro. However, these cellular systems do not include developmental processes from early embryonic stages up to terminally differentiated cell types. An alternative approach has been offered by permanent lines of pluripotent stem cells of embryonic origin, such as embryonic carcinoma (EC), embryonic stem (ES) and embryonic germ (EG) cells. The undifferentiated stem cell lines are characterized by nearly unlimited self-renewal capacity and have been shown to differentiate in vitro into cells of all three primary germ layers. Pluripotent embryonic stem cell lines recapitulate cellular developmental processes and gene expression patterns of early embryogenesis during in vitro differentiation, data which are summarized in this review. In addition, recent studies are presented which investigated mutagenic, cytotoxic and embryotoxic effects of chemical substances using in vitro systems of pluripotent embryonic stem cells. Furthermore, an outlook is given on future molecular technologies using embryonic stem cells in developmental toxicology and embryotoxicology.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-753
Number of pages13
JournalToxicology in vitro : official journal of the European Society of Toxicology in Vitro
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2001

External IDs

PubMed 11698176


ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Cytotoxicity, Differentiation, Embryonic stem cells, Embryotoxicity, Gene expression patterns, Mouse, Mutagenicity