Differentiation of rat adipose‑derived mesenchymal stem cells into corneal‑like epithelial cells driven by PAX6
Affiliations: Department of Neurobiology, Chongqing Key Laboratory of Neurobiology, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing 400038, P.R. China, Department of Surgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Chengdu Medical College, Chengdu, Sichuan 610500, P.R. China, Department of Regeneration Key Lab of Sichuan Province, Chengdu Medical College, Chengdu, Sichuan 610500, P.R. China, Department of Biomedical Engineering, West China Center of Medical Sciences, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan 610041, P.R. China
- Published online on: November 27, 2017 https://doi.org/10.3892/etm.2017.5576
- Pages: 1424-1432
Copyright: © Sun et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution License.
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Corneal integrity, transparency and vision acuity are maintained by corneal epithelial cells (CECs), which are continuously renewed by corneal limbal stem cells (LSCs). Deficiency of CECs and/or LSCs is associated with numerous ocular diseases. Paired box (PAX)6 is an eye development‑associated transcription factor that is necessary for cell fate determination and differentiation of LSCs and CECs. In the present study, the PAX6 gene was introduced into adipose‑derived rat mesenchymal stem cells (ADMSCs) to investigate whether PAX6‑transfected cells were able to transdifferentiate into corneal‑like epithelial cells and to further verify whether the cells were suitable as a cell source for corneal transplantation. The ADMSCs were isolated from the bilateral inguinal region of healthy Sprague Dawley rats. The characteristics of ADMSCs were identified using flow cytometric analysis. After subculture, ADMSCs underwent transfection with recombinant plasmid containing either PAX6‑enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) complementary (c)DNA or EGFP cDNA (blank plasmid group), followed by selection with G418 and determination of the transfection efficiency. Subsequently, the morphology of the ADMSCs and the expression profiles of corneal‑specific markers CK3/12 and epithelial‑specific adhesion protein were determined. E‑cadherin was detected using immunofluorescence staining and western blot analysis at 21 days following transfection. An MTT cell proliferation and a colony formation assay were performed to assess the proliferative activity and clonogenicity of PAX6‑transfected ADMSCs. Finally, the PAX6‑expressing ADMSCs were transplanted onto the cornea of a rabbits with limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD). At 21 days after transfection, the ADMSCs with PAX6 transfection exhibited a characteristic flagstone‑like appearance with assembled corneal‑like epithelial cells, and concomitant prominent expression of the corneal‑specific markers cytokeratin 3/12 and E‑cadherin. Furthermore, the proliferation and colony formation ability of PAX6‑overexpressing ADMSCs was significantly retarded. The transplantation experiment indicated that PAX6‑reprogramed ADMSCs attached to and replenished the damaged cornea via formation of stratified corneal epithelium. Taken together, these results suggested that conversion of ADMSCs into corneal‑like epithelium may be driven by PAX6 transfection, which makes ADMSCs a promising cell candidate for the treatment of LSCD.