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Bone. 1999 Jun;24(6):549-54.

Interconversion potential of cloned human marrow adipocytes in vitro.

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  • 1MRC Bone Research Laboratory, University of Oxford, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, UK.


Information on the interconversion potential of adipocytes and other end cells characteristic of the stromal fibroblastic cell lineages, key in the understanding of bone turnover in metabolic diseases such as osteoporosis, is limited. The object of the present study was: i) to isolate relatively pure populations of adipocytes from human bone marrow; ii) to clone single adipocytes from these populations; and iii) to examine in vitro the interconversion potential of the progeny of these single-cloned adipocytes between the osteogenic and adipogenic phenotypes. Adipogenic colonies were isolated from the low-density floating fraction of normal bone marrow cells cultured in adipogenic media for 4 days. Single adipocytes were isolated and cloned by limiting dilution. Cloned adipocytes were found to dedifferentiate into fibroblast-like cells, and subsequently to differentiate into two morphologically distinct cell types: osteoblasts and adipocytes in appropriate culture systems. The adipocytic phenotype was confirmed by morphology, oil red O staining, and immunocytochemistry using antiserum to aP2. The osteogenic phenotype was confirmed by alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin immunostaining using specific osteocalcin antiserum, and formation of mineralized cell aggregates. These findings demonstrate the extent of plasticity between the differentiation of adipocytic and osteogenic cells in human bone marrow stromal cell cultures. We have shown the ability of isolated clonal adipogenic cells to redifferentiate into cells of the osteogenic and adipogenic lineage and the interconversion potential of human marrow stromal cells in vitro. These results provide further evidence that the osteogenic and adipogenic cells share a common multipotential precursor.

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