Embryonic fibroblasts represent a connecting link between mesenchymal and embryonic stem cells

Authors


  • Conflict of interest: None declared.

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.

Email: rajarshi.pal@manipal.edu

Abstract

It is well established that fibroblasts and mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) share several characteristics with subtle differences. However, no study highlighting the versatility of fibroblasts beyond their multipotentiality has been reported so far. Mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) are widely used as feeder layers to support the growth of embryonic stem cells (ESC). We hypothesized that MEF may retain ES-like features in concurrence to their developmental hierarchy in addition to their multipotent nature. Hence, we performed a comparative assessment of MEF and ESC to determine their ability to differentiate into cell types other than mesoderm as well as capacity to form teratoma using routine in vitro and in vivo techniques. MEF were derived by trypsin/ EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) digestion from E13.5 embryos after removing heads and viscera following plastic adherence. MEFs robustly proliferated in culture until passage 15 and formed aggregates by hanging drop method. Flow cytometry, reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR) and immunocytochemistry revealed the presence of key MSC markers such as CD90, CD73, Sca-1, CD44, CD29, Vimentin and absence of CD45. Additionally, they expressed SSEA-1, Oct-4, Nanog, Sox-2 and ABCG2 as pluripotency markers; Nestin, β-III tubulin, Otx-2 (ectoderm); MEF-2, Mesp2, GATA-2 (mesoderm) and GATA-4, α-amylase, PDX-1 (endoderm) as tri-lineage markers. Furthermore, MEFs formed representative tissues from all three germ layers upon transplantation into Balb/c mice. These unique abilities of MEF to exhibit pluripotency, in addition to fibroblast characteristics and their ready availability with less ethical concerns and low maintenance requirements make them an attractive model for further exploration as a possible tool for regenerative medicine.

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