Functional Neuronal Differentiation of Bone Marrow-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells



Recent results have shown the ability of bone marrow cells to migrate in the brain and to acquire neuronal or glial characteristics. In vitro, bone marrow-derived MSCs can be induced by chemical compounds to express markers of these lineages. In an effort to set up a mouse model of such differentiation, we addressed the neuronal potentiality of mouse MSCs (mMSCs) that we recently purified. These cells expressed nestin, a specific marker of neural progenitors. Under differentiating conditions, mMSCs display a distinct neuronal shape and express neuronal markers NF-L (neurofilament-light, or neurofilament 70 kDa) and class III β-tubulin. Moreover, differentiated mMSCs acquire neuron-like functions characterized by a cytosolic calcium rise in response to various specific neuronal activators. Finally, we further demonstrated for the first time that clonal mMSCs and their progeny are competent to differentiate along the neuronal pathway, demonstrating that these bone marrow-derived stem cells share characteristics of widely multipotent stem cells unrestricted to mesenchymal differentiation pathways.