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J Cell Physiol. 1987 Nov;133(2):321-9.

Induction of cytokeratin expression in human mesenchymal cells.

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Department I, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Finland.


We studied the phenotypic features of some typical human mesenchymal cells, including decidual stromal cells and adult and fetal fibroblasts under different cell culture conditions by using antibodies to intermediate filament proteins and desmoplakins. In cell culture, the decidual stromal cells rapidly acquired typical fibroblastoid appearance with abundant arrays of vimentin filaments while the cytokeratin-positive epithelial cells, occasionally found in typical epithelioid colonies, lacked vimentin positivity and showed desmoplakin positivity. Within a few days, many of the stromal cells started to present cytokeratin positivity when cultured either in Condimed or in Chang medium. The cytokeratin positivity was first detected in small, scattered cytoplasmic dotted fibrils or in perinuclear dotlike aggregates with fibrillar projections. Later, denser cytokeratin-positive fibrillar arrays could also be seen in stromal cells, which lacked desmoplakin positivity as judged by two monoclonal antibodies. Decidual stromal cells were also cloned and in five out of ten clones some of the cells acquired a similar cytokeratin positivity when transferred into Chang or Condimed medium. Immunoblotting results indicated that cytokeratins 8, 18, and 19 can be found in these cultures. Similar cytokeratin positivity could also be seen in the same culture conditions in cultured fetal fibroblasts from skin, chorionic villi, and lung but not in young or adult skin fibroblast cultures. The present results suggest that decidual stromal cells as well as some embryonal mesenchymal cells can acquire epithelial differentiation in vitro as judged by the emergence of cytokeratin proteins. This ability appears to be lost in the corresponding adult cell. The results furthermore suggest that cytokeratin fibrils can be organized in the cytoplasm without an apparent organization center and that neither the appearance of desmoplakins nor the formation of cell-to-cell contacts are required for cytokeratin filament assembly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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