Neuro-muscular differentiation of adult porcine skin derived stem cell-like cells
Background: Due to the genetic relationship to humans, porcine stem cells are a very important model system to investigate cell differentiation, associated cell signaling pathways, and cell fate. Porcine skin derived stem cells have been isolated from mid-gestation porcine fetus recently. To our knowledge, stem cells from the skin of the adult porcine organism have not been isolated until now. Hence, to our knowledge, we here describe the isolation, expansion, characterization and differentiation of multipotent porcine skin derived stem cell-like cells (pSSCs) from the adult porcine organism for the first time. Methodology/Principal Findings: pSSCs had a spindle shaped morphology similar to mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). They could be maintained proliferatively active in vitro for more than 120 days and were able to form colonies from single cells. pSSCs expressed Sox2 and Oct3/4, both transcription factors essential to the pluripotent and self-renewing phenotypes of embryonic stem cells, which recently gained attention due to their function in inducing pluripotent stem cells. Furthermore, the expression of the progenitor marker nestin, the somatic stem cell markers Bcrp1/ABCG2, Bmi1, and Stat3 was detected by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in undifferentiated pSSCs. Flow cytometry revealed the expression of the MSC related proteins CD9, CD29, CD44 and CD105, but not CD90. After neuronal differentiation cells with a characteristic morphology of neuronal and smooth muscle-like cells were present in the cultures. Subsequent immunochemistry and flow cytometry revealed the down-regulation of nestin and the up-regulation of the neuron specific protein beta-III-tubulin and the astrocyte marker GFAP. Also, alpha-SMA expressing cells increased during differentiation suggesting the neuro-muscular differentiation of these skin derived cells. pSSCs could also be induced to differentiate into adipocyte-like cells when cultured under specific conditions. Conclusions/Significance: Adult porcine skin harbors a population of stem cell-like cells (pSSCs) that can be isolated via enzymatic digestion. These pSSCs show characteristic features of MSCs originated in other tissues and express the embryonic stem cell marker Oct3/4, Sox2, and Stat3. Furthermore, pSSCs have the potential to differentiate into cells from two different germ lines, the ectoderm (neurons, astrocytes) and the mesoderm (smooth muscle cells, adipocytes).