Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are a potent cell source for neurogenesis. Previously we have generated iPSCs from human dental stem cells carrying transgene vectors. These exogenous transgenes may affect iPSC behaviors and limit their clinical applications. The purpose of this study was to establish transgene-free iPSCs (TF-iPSCs) reprogrammed from human stem cells of apical papilla (SCAP) and determine their neurogenic potential.
A single lentiviral 'stem cell cassette' flanked by the loxP site (hSTEMCCA-loxP), encoding four human reprogramming factors, OCT4, SOX2, KLF4, and c-MYC, was used to reprogram human SCAP into iPSCs. Generated iPSCs were transfected with plasmid pHAGE2-EF1α-Cre-IRES-PuroR and selected with puromycin for the TF-iPSC subclones. PCR was performed to confirm the excision of hSTEMCCA. TF-iPSC clones did not resist to puromycin treatment indicating no pHAGE2-EF1α-Cre-IRES-PuroR integration into the genome. In vitro and in vivo analyses of their pluripotency were performed. Embryoid body-mediated neural differentiation was undertaken to verify their neurogenic potential.
TF-SCAP iPSCs were generated via a hSTEMCCA-loxP/Cre system. PCR of genomic DNA confirmed transgene excision and puromycin treatment verified the lack of pHAGE2-EF1α-Cre-IRES-PuroR integration. Transplantation of the TF-iPSCs into immunodeficient mice gave rise to teratomas containing tissues representing the three germ layers -- ectoderm (neural rosettes), mesoderm (cartilage and bone tissues) and endoderm (glandular epithelial tissues). Embryonic stem cell-associated markers TRA-1-60, TRA-2-49 and OCT4 remained positive after transgene excision. After neurogenic differentiation, cells showed neural-like morphology expressing neural markers nestin, βIII-tubulin, NFM, NSE, NeuN, GRM1, NR1 and CNPase.
TF-SCAP iPSCs reprogrammed from SCAP can be generated and they may be a good cell source for neurogenesis.