Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) represent a unique cell population in the blastocyst stage embryo. They have been intensively studied as a promising cell source for regenerative medicine. Recent studies have revealed that both human and mouse ESCs are deficient in expressing IFNs and have attenuated inflammatory responses. Apparently, the ability to express IFNs and respond to certain inflammatory cytokines is not “innate” to ESCs but rather is developmentally acquired by somatic cells during differentiation. Accumulating evidence supports a hypothesis that the attenuated innate immune response may serve as a protective mechanism allowing ESCs to avoid immunological cytotoxicity. This review describes our current understanding of the molecular basis that shapes the immune properties of ESCs. We highlight the recent findings on Dicer and dsRNA-activated protein kinase R as novel regulators of ESC fate and antiviral immunity and discuss how ESCs use alternative mechanisms to accommodate their stem cell properties.

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