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BMC Cell Biol. 2009 Jun 5;10:44. doi: 10.1186/1471-2121-10-44.

Self-renewal and differentiation capabilities are variable between human embryonic stem cell lines I3, I6 and BG01V.

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Stem Cell Center, Developmental Biology, American Type Culture Collection, Manassas, VA, USA.



A unique and essential property of embryonic stem cells is the ability to self-renew and differentiate into multiple cell lineages. However, the possible differences in proliferation and differentiation capabilities among independently-derived human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are not well known because of insufficient characterization. To address this question, a side-by-side comparison of 1) the ability to maintain an undifferentiated state and to self-renew under standard conditions; 2) the ability to spontaneously differentiate into three primary embryonic germ lineages in differentiating embryoid bodies; and 3) the responses to directed neural differentiation was made between three NIH registered hES cell lines I3 (TE03), I6 (TE06) and BG01V. Lines I3 and I6 possess normal XX and a normal XY karyotype while BG01V is a variant cell line with an abnormal karyotype derived from the karyotypically normal cell line BG01.


Using immunocytochemistry, flow cytometry, qRT-PCR and MPSS, we found that all three cell lines actively proliferated and expressed similar "stemness" markers including transcription factors POU5F1/Oct3/4 and NANOG, glycolipids SSEA4 and TRA-1-81, and alkaline phosphatase activity. All cell lines differentiated into three embryonic germ lineages in embryoid bodies and into neural cell lineages when cultured in neural differentiation medium. However, a profound variation in colony morphology, growth rate, BrdU incorporation, and relative abundance of gene expression in undifferentiated and differentiated states of the cell lines was observed. Undifferentiated I3 cells grew significantly slower but their differentiation potential was greater than I6 and BG01V. Under the same neural differentiation-promoting conditions, the ability of each cell line to differentiate into neural progenitors varied.


Our comparative analysis provides further evidence for similarities and differences between three hESC lines in self-renewal, and spontaneous and directed differentiation. These differences may be associated with inherited variation in the sex, stage, quality and genetic background of embryos used for hESC line derivation, and/or changes acquired during passaging in culture.

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