Induction of hepatic differentiation in embryonic stem cells by co-culture with embryonic cardiac mesoderm

Jeffrey H Fair, Bruce A Cairns, Michael Lapaglia, Jian Wang, Anthony A Meyer, Hyung Kim, Seigo Hatada, Oliver Smithies, Larysa Pevny
Surgery 2003, 134 (2): 189-96

BACKGROUND: Modifications in vitro have been used to direct embryonic stem (ES) cells toward endodermal phenotypes including hepatocytes; however, developmental correlates and evidence of biologic activity is lacking, and critical cell-cell interactions have not been investigated. In this study, we hypothesized that cardiac mesoderm (CM) signals ES cells in co-culture to undergo differentiation toward early hepatocyte lineage as determined by morphology and induction of genes essential for endodermal competence and hepatocyte development.

METHODS: Green fluorescent protein ES derived from A129 mice were cultured with or without embryonic chick cardiac mesoderm. Cultures from day 1, 2, and 4 were analyzed for colony formation and ES morphology and 10(6) ES-derived cells were isolated for mRNA analysis.

RESULTS: ES in co-culture with CM displayed colony formation, polymorphic appearance, and definitive interface with CM. In addition, ES + CM co-culture activated crucial transcription factors (sox 17alpha, HNF3beta, and GATA 4) required for hepatocyte development by day 1. mRNA for albumin and especially a-fetoprotein were also increased by culture days 2 and 4.

CONCLUSIONS: ES cells co-cultured with CM display morphology and gene expression pattern required for hepatocyte differentiation and appear to recapitulate the molecular events of hepatogenesis.

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