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Cytotherapy. 2011 Sep;13(8):918-32. doi: 10.3109/14653249.2011.579957. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

Neuronal plasticity of human Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stromal cells to the dopaminergic cell type compared with human bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells.

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Manipal Institute of Regenerative Medicine, Constituent Institute of Manipal University, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.



Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) derived from Wharton's jelly (WJ) of the umbilical cord are increasingly gaining prominence as substitutes for bone marrow (BM) MSC. While MSC isolated from different tissue sources may share common mesenchymal properties, the difference in their plasticity to individual lineages is ill-defined. Thus the focus of this study was to estimate the neuronal plasticity of WJ MSC to the dopaminergic (DA) cell type in comparison with BM MSC.


For neuronal differentiation, MSC were exposed to developmentally relevant cues for midbrain DA neurons: sonic hedgehog (SHH) and fibroblast growth factor 8 (FGF8), along with basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF).


Naive MSC from both sources constitutively expressed neuronal markers. Flow cytometry data revealed that the control WJ MSC shared a signature similar to BM MSC for early neuronal markers (nestin, musashi12 and A2B5) and DA-specific markers [tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and Nuclear Receptor related protein 1 (Nurr1) but differed for mature neuronal proteins [β-tubulin III and microtubule-associated protein 2 (Map2ab)]. Similar populations of cells in both sources of MSC were positive for the SHH receptors [patched (PTCH) and smoothened (SMO)]. In induced BM and WJ MSC, real-time reverse transcriptase (RT)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis showed similar levels of DA-related transcription factors Nurr1 and Engrailed (En) 1. Immunocytochemical and flow cytometry analysis showed an increase in mature neuronal marker Map2ab. Kv4.2, a K(+) channel marker, was observed only in the induced MSC. Induced MSC also expressed several DA-specific markers, TH, dopamine and cyclic AMP regulated phosphoprotein (DARPP) 32, paired-like homeodomain transcription factor (PitX) 3 and vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT) 2, in comparable levels between the two sources. The efficiency (c. 65%) of transdifferentiation of WJ MSC to TH-positive cells was similar to that of induced BM MSC. Constitutive and inducible release of dopamine was found to be similar between induced BM and WJ MSC, as measured by dopamine enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Interestingly, an adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-stimulated change in intracellular Ca(2+) was observed in both control and induced MSC, but only the induced MSC was capable of releasing dopamine.


Our data demonstrate that MSC from the two different sources respond similarly to inductive cues to differentiate terminally to a DA cell type, and the neuronal plasticity of human WJ MSC is comparable with that of BM MSC.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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