Embryonic stem (ES) cells are distinguished by their ability to undergo unlimited self-renewal although retaining pluripotency, the capacity to specify cells of all germ layers. Alternative splicing contributes to these biological processes by vastly increasing the protein coding repertoire, enabling genes to code for novel variants that may confer different biological functions. The homeodomain transcription factor Nanog acts collaboratively with core factors Oct4 and Sox2 to govern the maintenance of pluripotency. We have discovered that Nanog is regulated by alternative splicing. Two novel exons and six subexons have been identified that extend the known Nanog gene structure and protein coding capacity. Alternative splicing results in two novel Nanog protein variants with attenuated capacities for self-renewal and pluripotency in ES cells. Our previous results have implicated the C-terminal domain, including the tryptophan- rich (WR) domain of Nanog, to be important for the function of Nanog (Wang, J., Levasseur, D. N., and Orkin, S. H. (2008) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 6326-6331). Using point mutation analyses, serine 2 (Ser-2) of Nanog has been identified as critical for ES cell self-renewal and for stabilizing a pluripotent gene signature. An inducible conditional knock-out was created to test the ability of new Nanog variants to genetically complement Nanog null ES cells. These results reveal for the first time an expanded Nanog protein coding capacity. We further reveal that a short region of the N-terminal domain and a single phosphorylatable Ser-2 is essential for the maintenance of self-renewal and pluripotency, demonstrating that this region of the protein is highly regulated.