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Concept: Cellular differentiation


We recently discovered a novel population of stem cells from the injured murine skeletal muscle. These injury induced muscle-derived stem cell-like cells (iMuSCs) are partially reprogrammed from differentiated myogenic cells and display a pluripotent-like state. The iMuSCs exhibit stem cell properties including the ability to differentiate into multiple lineages, such as neurogenic and myogenic differentiations; they also display a superior migration capacity that demonstrating a strong ability of muscle engraftment in vivo. IMuSCs express several pluripotent and myogenic stem cell markers; have the capability to form embryoid bodies and teratomas, and can differentiate into all three germ layers. Moreover, blastocyst microinjection showed that the iMuSCs contributed to chimeric embryos but could not complete germline transmission. Our results indicate that the iMuSCs are in a partially reprogrammed state of pluripotency, which are generated by the microenvironment of injured skeletal muscle.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Cell division, Stem cell, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Multipotency, Pluripotency, Stem cell marker


Biological resurfacing of entire articular surfaces represents an important but challenging strategy for treatment of cartilage degeneration that occurs in osteoarthritis. Not only does this approach require anatomically sized and functional engineered cartilage, but the inflammatory environment within an arthritic joint may also inhibit chondrogenesis and induce degradation of native and engineered cartilage. The goal of this study was to use adult stem cells to engineer anatomically shaped, functional cartilage constructs capable of tunable and inducible expression of antiinflammatory molecules, specifically IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra). Large (22-mm-diameter) hemispherical scaffolds were fabricated from 3D woven poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) fibers into two different configurations and seeded with human adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs). Doxycycline (dox)-inducible lentiviral vectors containing eGFP or IL-1Ra transgenes were immobilized to the PCL to transduce ASCs upon seeding, and constructs were cultured in chondrogenic conditions for 28 d. Constructs showed biomimetic cartilage properties and uniform tissue growth while maintaining their anatomic shape throughout culture. IL-1Ra-expressing constructs produced nearly 1 µg/mL of IL-1Ra upon controlled induction with dox. Treatment with IL-1 significantly increased matrix metalloprotease activity in the conditioned media of eGFP-expressing constructs but not in IL-1Ra-expressing constructs. Our findings show that advanced textile manufacturing combined with scaffold-mediated gene delivery can be used to tissue engineer large anatomically shaped cartilage constructs that possess controlled delivery of anticytokine therapy. Importantly, these cartilage constructs have the potential to provide mechanical functionality immediately upon implantation, as they will need to replace a majority, if not the entire joint surface to restore function.

Concepts: Biology, Extracellular matrix, Receptor, Cellular differentiation, Histology, Osteoarthritis, Engineering, Adult stem cell


Many groups, including our own, have proposed the use of DNA methylation profiles as biomarkers for various disease states. While much research has been done identifying DNA methylation signatures in cancer vs. normal etc., we still lack sufficient knowledge of the role that differential methylation plays during normal cellular differentiation and tissue specification. We also need thorough, genome level studies to determine the meaning of methylation of individual CpG dinucleotides in terms of gene expression.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Cancer, Organism, Cellular differentiation, DNA methylation


As with many anti-cancer drugs, the topoisomerase II inhibitor etoposide is considered safe for administration to women in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, but assessment of effects on the developing fetus have been limited. The purpose of this research was to examine the effect of etoposide on germ cells in the developing ovary. Mouse ovary tissue culture was used as the experimental model, thus allowing us to examine effects of etoposide on all stages of germ cell development in the same way, in vitro.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Embryo, Chemotherapy, Cellular differentiation, Puberty, Germ cell


Nonviral conversion of skin or blood cells into clinically useful human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) occurs in only rare fractions (∼0.001%-0.5%) of donor cells transfected with non-integrating reprogramming factors. Pluripotency induction of developmentally immature stem-progenitors is generally more efficient than differentiated somatic cell targets. However, the nature of augmented progenitor reprogramming remains obscure, and its potential has not been fully explored for improving the extremely slow pace of non-integrated reprogramming. Here, we report highly optimized four-factor reprogramming of lineage-committed cord blood (CB) myeloid progenitors with bulk efficiencies of ∼50% in purified episome-expressing cells. Lineage-committed CD33(+)CD45(+)CD34(-) myeloid cells and not primitive hematopoietic stem-progenitors were the main targets of a rapid and nearly complete non-integrated reprogramming. The efficient conversion of mature myeloid populations into NANOG(+)TRA-1-81(+) hiPSC was mediated by synergies between hematopoietic growth factor (GF), stromal activation signals, and episomal Yamanaka factor expression. Using a modular bioinformatics approach, we demonstrated that efficient myeloid reprogramming correlated not to increased proliferation or endogenous Core factor expressions, but to poised expression of GF-activated transcriptional circuits that commonly regulate plasticity in both hematopoietic progenitors and embryonic stem cells (ESC). Factor-driven conversion of myeloid progenitors to a high-fidelity pluripotent state was further accelerated by soluble and contact-dependent stromal signals that included an implied and unexpected role for Toll receptor-NFκB signaling. These data provide a paradigm for understanding the augmented reprogramming capacity of somatic progenitors, and reveal that efficient induced pluripotency in other cell types may also require extrinsic activation of a molecular framework that commonly regulates self-renewal and differentiation in both hematopoietic progenitors and ESC.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Embryonic stem cell, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency


Diabetes is a chronic debilitating disease that results from insufficient production of insulin from pancreatic β-cells. Islet cell replacement can effectively treat diabetes but is currently severely limited by the reliance upon cadaveric donor tissue. We have developed a protocol to efficiently differentiate commercially available human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in vitro into a highly enriched PDX1+ pancreatic progenitor cell population that further develops in vivo to mature pancreatic endocrine cells. Immature pancreatic precursor cells were transplanted into immunodeficient mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes, and glycemia was initially controlled with exogenous insulin. As graft-derived insulin levels increased over time, diabetic mice were weaned from exogenous insulin and human C-peptide secretion was eventually regulated by meal and glucose challenges. Similar differentiation of pancreatic precursor cells was observed after transplant in immunodeficient rats. Throughout the in vivo maturation period hESC-derived endocrine cells exhibited gene and protein expression profiles that were remarkably similar to the developing human fetal pancreas. Our findings support the feasibility of using differentiated hESCs as an alternative to cadaveric islets for treating patients with diabetes.

Concepts: Cell, Insulin, Glucose, Stem cell, Islets of Langerhans, Pancreas, Cellular differentiation, Embryonic stem cell


Proteins endogenously secreted by human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and those present in hESC culture medium are critical regulators of hESC self-renewal and differentiation. Current MS-based approaches for identifying secreted proteins rely predominantly on MS analysis of cell culture supernatants. Here we show that targeted proteomics of secretory pathway organelles is a powerful alternate approach for interrogating the cellular secretome. We have developed procedures to obtain subcellular fractions from mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and hESCs that are enriched in secretory pathway organelles while ensuring retention of the secretory cargo. MS analysis of these fractions from hESCs cultured in MEF conditioned medium (MEF-CM) or MEFs exposed to hESC medium revealed 99 and 129 proteins putatively secreted by hESCs and MEFs, respectively. Of these, 53 and 62 proteins have been previously identified in cell culture supernatants of MEFs and hESCs, respectively, thus establishing the validity of our approach. Furthermore, 76 and 37 putatively secreted proteins identified in this study in MEFs and hESCs, respectively, have not been reported in previous MS analyses. The identification of low abundance secreted proteins via MS analysis of cell culture supernatants typically necessitates the use of altered culture conditions such as serum-free medium. However, an altered medium formulation might directly influence the cellular secretome. Indeed, we observed significant differences between the abundances of several secreted proteins in subcellular fractions isolated from hESCs cultured in MEF-CM and those exposed to unconditioned hESC medium for 24 h. In contrast, targeted proteomics of secretory pathway organelles does not require the use of customized media. We expect that our approach will be particularly valuable in two contexts highly relevant to hESC biology: obtaining a temporal snapshot of proteins secreted in response to a differentiation trigger, and identifying proteins secreted by cells that are isolated from a heterogeneous population.

Concepts: Cell, Golgi apparatus, Stem cell, Endoplasmic reticulum, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Cell culture, Embryonic stem cell


Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), the most abundant growth factor in the bone matrix, maintains bone mass in adulthood. We now report that IGF-1 released from the bone matrix during bone remodeling stimulates osteoblastic differentiation of recruited mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) by activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), thus maintaining proper bone microarchitecture and mass. Mice with knockout of the IGF-1 receptor (Igf1r) in their pre-osteoblastic cells showed lower bone mass and mineral deposition rates than wild-type mice. Further, MSCs from Igf1rflox/flox mice with Igf1r deleted by a Cre adenovirus in vitro, although recruited to the bone surface after implantation, were unable to differentiate into osteoblasts. We also found that the concentrations of IGF-1 in the bone matrix and marrow of aged rats were lower than in those of young rats and directly correlated with the age-related decrease in bone mass. Likewise, in age-related osteoporosis in humans, we found that bone marrow IGF-1 concentrations were 40% lower in individuals with osteoporosis than in individuals without osteoporosis. Notably, injection of IGF-1 plus IGF binding protein 3 (IGFBP3), but not injection of IGF-1 alone, increased the concentration of IGF-1 in the bone matrix and stimulated new bone formation in aged rats. Together, these results provide mechanistic insight into how IGF-1 maintains adult bone mass, while also providing a further rationale for its therapeutic targeting to treat age-related osteoporosis.

Concepts: Bone, Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Skeletal system, Cellular differentiation, Insulin-like growth factor 1, Insulin-like growth factor


BACKGROUND: Stem cell injection therapies have been proposed to overcome the limited efficacy and adverse reactions of bulking agents. However, most have significant limitations, including painful procurement, requirement for anesthesia, donor site infection and a frequently low cell yield. Recently, human amniotic fluid stem cells (hAFSCs) have been proposed as an ideal cell therapy source. In this study, we investigated whether periurethral injection of hAFSCs can restore urethral sphincter competency in a mouse model. METHODS: Amniotic fluids were collected and harvested cells were analyzed for stem cell characteristics and in vitro myogenic differentiation potency. Mice underwent bilateral pudendal nerve transection to generate a stress urinary incontinence (SUI) model and received either periurethral injection of hAFSCs, periurethral injection of Plasma-Lyte (control group), or underwent a sham (normal control group). For in vivo cell tracking, cells were labeled with silica-coated magnetic nanoparticles containing rhodamine B isothiocyanate (MNPs@SiO2 (RITC)) and were injected into the urethral sphincter region (n = 9). Signals were detected by optical imaging. Leak point pressure and closing pressure were recorded serially after injection. Tumorigenicity of hAFSCs was evaluated by implanting hAFSCs into the subcapsular space of the kidney, followed two weeks later by retrieval and histologic analysis. RESULTS: Flow activated cell sorting showed that hAFSCs expressed mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) markers, but no hematopoietic stem cell markers. Induction of myogenic differentiation in the hAFSCs resulted in expression of PAX7 and MYOD at Day 3, and DYSTROPHIN at Day 7. The nanoparticle-labeled hAFSCs could be tracked in vivo with optical imaging for up to 10 days after injection. Four weeks after injection, the mean LPP and CP were significantly increased in the hAFSC-injected group compared with the control group. Nerve regeneration and neuromuscular junction formation of injected hAFSCs in vivo was confirmed with expression of neuronal markers and acetylcholine receptor. Injection of hAFSCs caused no in vivo host CD8 lymphocyte aggregation or tumor formation. CONCLUSIONS: hAFSCs displayed MSC characteristics and could differentiate into cells of myogenic lineage. Periurethral injection of hAFSCs into an SUI animal model restored the urethral sphincter to apparently normal histology and function, in absence of immunogenicity and tumorigenicity.

Concepts: Gene expression, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Stem cells, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation


Understanding the complex regulatory networks underlying development and evolution of multi-cellular organisms is a major problem in biology. Computational models can be used as tools to extract the regulatory structure and dynamics of such networks from gene expression data. This approach is called reverse engineering. It has been successfully applied to many gene networks in various biological systems. However, to reconstitute the structure and non-linear dynamics of a developmental gene network in its spatial context remains a considerable challenge. Here, we address this challenge using a case study: the gap gene network involved in segment determination during early development of Drosophila melanogaster. A major problem for reverse-engineering pattern-forming networks is the significant amount of time and effort required to acquire and quantify spatial gene expression data. We have developed a simplified data processing pipeline that considerably increases the throughput of the method, but results in data of reduced accuracy compared to those previously used for gap gene network inference. We demonstrate that we can infer the correct network structure using our reduced data set, and investigate minimal data requirements for successful reverse engineering. Our results show that timing and position of expression domain boundaries are the crucial features for determining regulatory network structure from data, while it is less important to precisely measure expression levels. Based on this, we define minimal data requirements for gap gene network inference. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of reverse-engineering with much reduced experimental effort. This enables more widespread use of the method in different developmental contexts and organisms. Such systematic application of data-driven models to real-world networks has enormous potential. Only the quantitative investigation of a large number of developmental gene regulatory networks will allow us to discover whether there are rules or regularities governing development and evolution of complex multi-cellular organisms.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Developmental biology, Cellular differentiation, Gene regulatory network, Networks, Systems biology