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Glycobiology. 2014 May;24(5):458-68. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwu012. Epub 2014 Feb 27.

Evidences for the involvement of cell surface glycans in stem cell pluripotency and differentiation.

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Instituto de Biofísica Carlos Chagas Filho, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, 21941-902, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are somatic cells that have been reprogrammed to a pluripotent state via the introduction of defined transcription factors. Although iPS is a potentially valuable resource for regenerative medicine and drug development, several issues regarding their pluripotency, differentiation propensity and potential for tumorigenesis remain to be elucidated. Analysis of cell surface glycans has arisen as an interesting tool for the characterization of iPS. An appropriate characterization of glycan surface molecules of human embryonic stem (hES) cells and iPS cells might generate crucial data to highlight their role in the acquisition and maintenance of pluripotency. In this study, we characterized the surface glycans of iPS generated from menstrual blood-derived mesenchymal cells (iPS-MBMC). We demonstrated that, upon spontaneous differentiation, iPS-MBMC present high amounts of terminal β-galactopyranoside residues, pointing to an important role of terminal-linked sialic acids in pluripotency maintenance. The removal of sialic acids by neuraminidase induces iPS-MBMC and hES cells differentiation, prompting an ectoderm commitment. Exposed β-galactopyranose residues might be recognized by carbohydrate-binding molecules found on the cell surface, which could modulate intercellular or intracellular interactions. Together, our results point for the first time to the involvement of the presence of terminal sialic acid in the maintenance of embryonic stem cell pluripotency and, therefore, the modulation of sialic acid biosynthesis emerges as a mechanism that may govern stem cell differentiation.


galactose; glycoconjugate; iPS; induced pluripotent stem cells; sialic acid; stem cells

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