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Title: Definition of the human embryonic stem cell niche in vitro
Author: Soteriou, Despina
ISNI:       0000 0004 2719 2946
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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The unique pluripotent character of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) places them in the forefront of scientific research, especially as they hold great promise for application in regenerative medicine, as well as drug discovery and toxicity analyses. Conventionally hESCs are cultured on mitotically inactivated mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) that are derived from E13.5 mouse embryos. One of the biggest challenges in the hESC field is the development of a reproducible and defined hESC culture system that would eliminate batch-to-batch variability of the MEFs as well as exposure to feeder cells that makes hESCs less applicable for clinical use. Previous studies have shown that maintenance of pluripotency can be achieved using Matrigel, a mixture of ECM components, or ECM derived from MEFs or human fibroblasts (Xu, et al., 2001, Klimanskaya, et al., 2005). Other groups have succeeded in culturing feeder-free hESCs by using extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, such as fibronectin, vitronectin or laminin, as substrates for hESC culture in the absence of feeders, confirming that ECM plays a key role in maintaining hESC growth (Amit, et al., 2004, Braam, et al., 2008, Baxter, et al., 2009, Rodin, et al., 2010).The aim of this work was to investigate the ECM deposited by MEF feeder cells and to isolate and identify proteins in the ECM that support undifferentiated growth of hESCs in the absence of feeders. We have investigated whether matrices derived from different passage feeders differ in their ability to support pluripotency. I also assessed the integrin receptor profile of hESCs in order to define the mechanisms of ECM engagement. ECM was extracted from two strains of feeder cells, CD1 x CD1 and MF1 x CD1, at passages 4 (early passage), 9 and 14 (late passage), and assessed for its ability to support hESC self-renewal over at least 3 passages. Tandem mass spectrometry was used to analyse the ECM composition of each MEF line, thereby allowing a comparison between different passages and different cell lines. More than 100 proteins were identified for each sample, the majority of which were ECM proteins and shared between different passage feeders. As predicted, fibronectin, which is known to support hESC self-renewal was the most prevalent species in all MEF-derived matrices. Furthermore a proteomic analysis of matrix derived from hESCs cultured in feeder-free conditions on fibronectin coating substratum revealed a number of proteins shared between supportive MEF populations and hESC, suggesting other potential candidates that may either assist or interfere with the maintenance of pluripotent hESCs. Of the proteins identified fibrillin-1, perlecan, fibulin-2 were tested as substrates for culturing hESCs in the absence of feeders, with the prospect of developing an optimised feeder-free culturing system that uses a combination defined animal-free substrates. Finally this study sought to dissect the interaction between ECM and growth factors and how these extrinsic factors may affect self-renewal and maintenance of pluripotency-associated gene expression. Interruption of hESC attachment, as well as removal of growth factors appeared to affect transcript levels of pluripotency genes, OCT4 and NANOG, suggesting that the microenvironment can influence hESC fate.
Supervisor: Kimber, Susan; Humphries, Martin Sponsor: BBSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Human embryonic stem cells ; Extracellular matrix