The human regenerative medicine by the transplantation of the functional cells differentiated from embryonic stem cells (ESCs) or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have great potential of contributing to the treatments for various diseases, and thus have attracted huge public attention. However, the risk of unwelcome tumor formation originated from transplanted cells in recipients remains to be solved. Therefore the safety and efficacy of ESC/iPSC-based therapies should be carefully evaluated using reliable animal disease models before their clinical application. Among experimental animal models, common marmoset (CM, Callithrix jacchus), one of NEW WORLD monkeys, has recently been recognized as a useful non-human primate because they are small, easy to handle, highly reproductive and genetically very similar to humans. We have continuously investigated the characteristics of ESCs and iPSCs derived from CM.
Understanding the self-renewal pathways in ESCs/iPSCs is crucial for the development of improved technology to culture and differentiate them into functional cells of potential therapeutic use. It has been reported that the maintenance of self-renewal in human or mouse ESCs/iPSCs require basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) or leukemia Inhibitory factor (LIF) respectively, however the growth factors required for the culture of CM ESCs/iPSCs have not been clearly determined.
To clarify whether LIF or bFGF is more appropriate to maintain self-renewal of CM ESCs in culture, we examined the proliferation rate of CM40, a CM ESC line, maintained in the presence or absence of LIF or bFGF. CM ESCs were passaged at a ratio of 1:3 every 3 to 4 days. We found that the number of OCT3/4+cells was significantly increased by the addition of bFGF but not of LIF compared to control (w/o cytokines). Similar results were obtained when Cj11, another CM ESC line, was used. These results indicate that bFGF is essential for culturing CM ESCs, but LIF is dispensable.
It has been reported that bFGF and its downstream PI3K-AKT and MEK-ERK pathways are important for maintenance of ESCs in human. Thus we examined whether PI3K-AKT and MEK-ERK pathway play crucial roles in the maintenance of self-renewal in CM ESCs. CM40 was cultured in the medium containing bFGF in the presence of PI3K inhibitor (LY294002) or MEK inhibitor (PD0325901). We found that the percentage and number of OCT3/4+ cells were gradually decreased in the presence of LY294002 (10 μM or 20 μM), suggesting that PI3K-AKT pathway is essential for the self-renewal of CM ESCs. Furthermore, the percentage and number of OCT3/4+cells were gradually decreased by addition of PD0325901 (1 μM or 5 μM) in the course of 4 passages, indicating that MEK-ERK pathway also plays a role in the self-renewal of CM ESCs.
Next we examined if inhibition of self-renewal pathway such as PI3K-AKT or MEK-ERK promote hematopoietic differentiation in CM ESCs. One of methods for inducing hematopoietic cells from ESCs is embryoid body (EB) formation which is a conventional technique frequently used for in vitro differentiation of ESCs. Thus to induce hematopoietic differentiation, we performed EB formation assay by plating single-cell suspension of CM ESCs (3 × 105 cells) in StemLine II supplemented with 50 ng/ml BMP4 and 50 ng/ml VEGF with or without 10 μM LY294002 or 5 μM PD0325901 for 2 days. Then we removed half the medium and added fresh medium with the same final concentrations of BMP4, VEGF, LY294002 and PD0325901, plus 25 ng/ml SCF, 25 ng/ml TPO and 25 ng/ml FLT3L to expand the hematopoietic progenitors. We found that addition of LY294002 or PD0325901 increased the population of cells positive for CD34, a marker for hematopoietic stem/progenitor and endothelial cells, in day4-EBs. These CD34+cells showed hematopoietic differentiation potential proved by colony forming unit (CFU) assay
Taken together, inhibition of self-renewal pathway such as PI3K-AKT or MEK-ERK in CM ESCs is thought to promote their hematopoietic differentiation by EB formation. Our findings might be useful to develop a better technology of the culture and hematopoietic differentiation of CM ESCs as well as to test efficacy and safety of ESC-derived hematopoietic cells using CM disease models for the future ESC/iPSC-based human regenerative medicine.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.