3 years ago

Differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into corneal epithelial progenitor cells under defined conditions

Kunpeng Pang, Liqun Du, Xinyi Wu, Canwei Zhang

by Canwei Zhang, Liqun Du, Kunpeng Pang, Xinyi Wu

The development of cell-based therapies using stem cells represents a significant breakthrough in the treatment of limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD). The aim of this study was to develop a novel protocol to differentiate human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into corneal epithelial progenitor cells (CEPCs), with similar features to primary cultured human limbal stem cells (LSCs), using a medium composed of DMEM/F12 and defined keratinocyte serum-free medium (KSFM) (1:1) under different carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in culture. The differentiated cells exhibited a similar morphology to limbal stem cells under 5%, 7%, and 9% CO2 and expressed the LSC markers ABCG-2 and p63; however, CK14 was only expressed in the cells cultured under 7% and 9% CO2. Quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis indicated that the ABCG2, p63, and CK14 levels in the 7% CO2 and 9% CO2 groups were higher than those in the 5% CO2 group and in undifferentiated hESCs (p<0.05). The highest expression of ABCG2 and p63 was exhibited in the cells cultured under 7% CO2 at day 6 of differentiation. Western blotting indicated that the ABCG2 and p63 levels were higher at day 6 than the other time points in the 7% CO2 and 9% CO2 groups. The highest protein expression of ABCG2 and p63 was identified in the 7% CO2 group. The neural cell-specific marker tubulin β3 and the epidermal marker K1/10 were also detected in the differentiated cells via immunofluorescent staining; thus, cell sorting was performed via fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), and ABCG2-positive cells were isolated as CEPCs. The sorted cells formed three to four layers of epithelioid cells by airlifting culture and expressed ABCG2, p63, CK14, and CK3. In conclusion, the novel induction system conditioned by 7% CO2 in this study may be an effective and feasible method for CEPC differentiation.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0183303

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