• superparamagnetic iron oxide;
  • MR contrast agent;
  • magnetic resonance imaging;
  • iron metabolism;
  • cell tracking;
  • cell therapy;
  • microarray


With MRI (stem) cell tracking having entered the clinic, studies on the cellular genomic response toward labeling are warranted. Gene expression profiling was applied to C17.2 neural stem cells following superparamagnetic iron oxide/PLL (poly-L-lysine) labeling over the course of 1 week. Relative to unlabeled cells, less than 1% of genes (49 total) exhibited greater than 2-fold difference in expression in response to superparamagnetic iron oxide/PLL labeling. In particular, transferrin receptor 1 (Tfrc) and heme oxygenase 1 (Hmox1) expression was downregulated early, whereas genes involved in lysosomal function (Sulf1) and detoxification (Clu, Cp, Gstm2, Mgst1) were upregulated at later time points. Relative to cells treated with PLL only, cells labeled with superparamagnetic iron oxide/PLL complexes exhibited differential expression of 1399 genes. Though these differentially expressed genes exhibited altered expression over time, the overall extent was limited. Gene ontology analysis of differentially expressed genes showed that genes encoding zinc-binding proteins are enriched after superparamagnetic iron oxide/PLL labeling relative to PLL only treatment, whereas members of the apoptosis/programmed cell death pathway did not display increased expression. Overexpression of the differentially expressed genes Rnf138 and Abcc4 were confirmed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. These results demonstrate that, although early reactions responsible for iron homeostasis are induced, overall neural stem cell gene expression remains largely unaltered following superparamagnetic iron oxide/PLL labeling. Magn Reson Med 63:1031–1043, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.