Oct-4 is a homeodomain transcription factor of the POU family. This protein is critically involved in the self-renewal of undifferentiated embryonic stem cells. As such, it is frequently used as a marker for undifferentiated cells. Oct-4 expression must be closely regulated; too much or too little will actually cause differentiation of the cells. Oct-4 transcription factor is initially active as a maternal factor in the oocyte but remains active in embryos throughout the preimplantation period. Oct-4 expression is associated with an undifferentiated phenotype and tumors. In fact gene knockdown of Oct-4 promotes differentiation, thereby demonstrating a role for these factors in human embryonic stem cell self-renewal.