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J Cell Biochem. 2002;85(1):92-100.

Modulation of the proliferation and differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells by copper.

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Laboratorio de Biología Celular, INTA, Universidad de Chile, Chile.


Copper plays important functional roles in bone metabolism and turnover. It is known that it is essential for normal growth and development of the skeleton in humans and in animals. Although at present the exact role that copper plays in bone metabolism is unknown, bone abnormalities are a feature of severe copper deficiency. Osteoblasts are derived from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) present in bone marrow stroma, which are able to differentiate into bone, adipocytes, and other cell phenotypes. Excess adipogenesis in postmenopausal women may occur at the expense of osteogenesis and, therefore, may be an important factor in the fragility of postmenopausal bone. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether an increase of the extracellular concentration of copper affects the ability of MSCs to differentiate into osteoblasts or adipocytes. The results showed that copper modified both the differentiation and the proliferative activity of MSCs obtained from postmenopausal women. Copper (50 microM) diminished the proliferation rate of MSCs, increasing their ability to differentiate into the osteogenic and the adipogenic lineages. Copper induced a 2-fold increase in osteogenic differentiation of MSCs, measured as a increase in calcium deposition. Copper (5 and 50 microM) diminished the expression of alkaline phosphatase (50 and 80%, respectively), but induced a shift in the expression of this enzyme to earlier times during culture. Copper also induced a 1.3-fold increase in the adipogenic differentiation of MSCs. It is concluded that copper stimulates MSC differentiation, and that this is preferentially towards the osteogenic lineage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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