Human leukemia inhibitory factor (hLIF) is a multifunctional cytokine that is essential for maintaining the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells. hLIF may be also be useful in aiding fertility through its effects on increasing the implantation rate of fertilized eggs. Thus these applications in biomedical research and clinical medicine create a high demand for bioactive hLIF. However, production of active hLIF is problematic since eukaryotic cells demonstrate limited expression and prokaryotic cells produce insoluble protein. Here, we have adopted a hybrid protein disulfide isomerase design to increase the solubility of hLIF in Escherichia coli. Low temperature expression of hLIF fused to the b'a' domain of protein disulfide isomerase (PDIb'a') increased the soluble expression in comparison to controls. A simple purification protocol for bioactive hLIF was established that includes removal of the PDIb'a' domain by cleavage by TEV protease. The resulting hLIF, which contains one extra glycine residue at the N-terminus, was highly pure and demonstrated endotoxin levels below 0.05 EU/mu g. The presence of an intramolecular disulfide bond was identified using mass spectroscopy. This purified hLIF effectively maintained the pluripotency of a murine embryonic stem cell line. Thus we have developed an effective method to produce a pure bioactive version of hLIF in E. coli for use in biomedical research.