Embryonic stem (ES) cells have a great interest for tissue engineering because of their pluripotent nature and proliferative capacity. The objective of this study is to constitute a synthetic microenvironment to support the in vitro propagation of murine ES cells in an undifferentiated state. That is why we used a three-dimensional matrix, nonwoven polyester fabric (NWPF), which was formed from poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) fibers. NWPF discs were partially hydrolyzed, and then the carboxyl groups were coupled with leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) in the presence of water-soluble carbodiimide. The effectiveness of immobilization process was checked with ATR-FTIR spectroscopy, fluorimetry, and cell culture studies. ES cell colony morphology, alkaline phosphatase (AP) activity, stage-specific embryonic antigen-1 (SSEA-1) immunoreactivity, and SEM analysis following a 72-96-h culture period upon hydrolyzed and LIF-immobilized surfaces were assessed to determine the pluripotent status of ES cells. Results revealed that LIF was active in immobilized form; undifferentiated colonies had not only a significant AP and SSEA-1 immunoreactivity, but also a higher undifferentiated colony ratio on LIF-immobilized surfaces than that of hydrolyzed surfaces. The immobilized LIF protein might be a good model to provide a feeder-free system, but the physical properties of the scaffold is more convenient for differentiation studies. (c) 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res 81A: 911-919, 2007.