Leukemia inhibitory factor, or LIF, an interleukin 6 class cytokine, is a protein in cells that affects cell growth and development.Leukemia Inhibitory Factor has several functions such as cholinergic neuron differentiation, control of stem cell pluripotency, bone & fat metabolism, mitogenesis of factor dependent cell lines & promotion of megakaryocyte production in vivo.
Removal of LIF pushes stem cells toward differentiation, but they retain their proliferative potential or pluripotency. Therefore LIF is used in mouse embryonic stem cell culture. It is necessary to maintain the stem cells in an undifferentiated state, however genetic manipulation of embryonic stem cells allows for LIF independent growth, notably overexpression of the gene Nanog. LIF is not required for culture of human embryonic stem cells.