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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Apr 22;105(16):6057-62. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0711961105. Epub 2008 Apr 18.

PU.1 and C/EBPalpha/beta convert fibroblasts into macrophage-like cells.

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  • 1Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, New York, NY 10461, USA.


Earlier work has shown that the transcription factor C/EBPalpha induced a transdifferentiation of committed lymphoid precursors into macrophages in a process requiring endogenous PU.1. Here we have examined the effects of PU.1 and C/EBPalpha on fibroblasts, a cell type distantly related to blood cells and akin to myoblasts, adipocytes, osteoblasts, and chondroblasts. The combination of the two factors, as well as PU.1 and C/EBPbeta, induced the up-regulation of macrophage/hematopoietic cell surface markers in a large proportion of NIH 3T3 cells. They also up-regulated these markers in mouse embryo- and adult skin-derived fibroblasts. Based on cell morphology, activation of macrophage-associated genes, and extinction of fibroblast-associated genes, cell lines containing an attenuated form of PU.1 and C/EBPalpha acquired a macrophage-like phenotype. The lines also display macrophage functions: They phagocytose small particles and bacteria, mount a partial inflammatory response, and exhibit strict CSF-1 dependence for growth. The myeloid conversion is primarily induced by PU.1, with C/EBPalpha acting as a modulator of macrophage-specific gene expression. Our data suggest that it might become possible to induce the transdifferentiation of skin-derived fibroblasts into cell types desirable for tissue regeneration.

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