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Keywords:

  • Mesenchymal stem cells;
  • MicroSAGE

Abstract

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) isolated from the bone marrow of adult organisms are capable of differentiating into adipocytes, chondrocytes, myoblasts, osteoblasts, and hematopoiesis-supporting stroma. We recently demonstrated that MSCs also adopt glial cell fates when transplanted into the developing central nervous system and hence can produce tissue elements derived from a separate embryonic layer. Despite these remarkable properties, it has been difficult to establish specific criteria to characterize MSCs. Using a modified protocol for micro-serial analysis of gene expression, we cataloged 2,353 unique genes expressed by a single cell-derived colony of undifferentiated human MSCs. This analysis revealed that the MSC colony simultaneously expressed transcripts characteristic of various mesenchymal cell lineages including chondrocytes, myoblasts, osteoblasts, and hematopoiesis-supporting stroma. Therefore, the profile of expressed transcripts reflects the developmental potential of the cells. Additionally, the MSC colony expressed mRNAs characteristic of endothelial, epithelial and neuronal cell lineages, a combination that provides a unique molecular signature for the cells. Other expressed transcripts included various products involved in wound repair as well as several neurotrophic factors. A total of 268 novel transcripts were also identified, one of which is the most abundantly expressed mRNA in MSCs. This study represents the first extensive gene expression analysis of MSCs and as such reveals new insight into the biology, ontogeny, and in vivo function of the cells.