Because of the heterogeneity of human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), methods for cell expansion in culture and the effects on gene expression are critical factors that need to be standardized for preparing MSCs. We investigated gene expression patterns of MSCs with different seeding densities and culture times.
Bone marrow-derived MSCs were plated at densities from 200 cells/cm2 to 5,000 cells/cm2, and the gene expression patterns were evaluated over time using a reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction assay.
The mRNA levels of factors that play a critical role in cell migration and tissue regeneration, such as podocalyxin-like protein (PODXL), α4-integrin, α6-integrin, and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), were higher in MSCs plated at 200 cells/cm2 than in MSCs plated at 5,000 cells/cm2. The mRNA levels of these factors gradually increased for 10 days and then decreased by day 15 in culture. MSCs seeded at 200 cells/cm2 that were cultured for 10 days expressed high levels of Oct-4 and Nanog. Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase, cyclooxygenase-1, and hepatocyte growth factor expression were upregulated in the presence of the proinflammatory cytokine interferon-γ in these cells.
We found differences in the gene expression patterns of MSCs under different culture conditions. MSCs from 10-day cultures seeded at a low density were efficiently expanded, expressed PODXL, α6-integrin, α4-integrin, and LIF, and maintained properties like stemness and immunomodulation. Therefore, ex vivo expansion of MSCs maintained for an adequate culture time after plating at low cell density can provide an effective regenerative medicinal strategy for cell therapies using MSCs.