Hyperbranched poly(ϵ-lysine) substrate presenting the laminin sequence YIGSR induces the formation of spheroids in adult bone marrow stem cells

Valeria Perugini, Steve Meikle, Anna Guildford, Matteo Santin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unlike the fibroblast-like cells formed upon monolayer culture of human mesenchymal stemcells, the natural stem cell niche of the bone marrow and other types of tissues favours the formation of 3-dimensional (3D) cell clusters. The structuring and biological activity of these clusters are regulated by the contacts established by cells with both the basement membrane and neighbour cells and results in their asymmetric division and the consequent maintenance of both a stem population and a committed progeny. The present work demonstrates the potential of a synthetic substrate to mimic the stem cell niche in vitro. The side amino groups of a linear Poly-L-lysine were modified with hyperbranched poly-( -lysine) peptides, named as dendrons, tethered with the laminin-mimicking sequence, YIGSR. These dendrons pre- sented the YIGSR sequence at the uppermost molecular branching ensuring a controlled spacing of the bioligand. When used to coat the surface of tissue culture plates in a serum- free in vitro cell culture system, the substrate was able to mimic the most relevant features of the basement membrane of the stem cell niche, i.e. the mesh structure of Collagen Type IV and the availability of laminin bioligands relevant to integrin biorecognition. The substrate bio- mimetic properties were tested for their ability to support the formation of human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) 3D spheroids similar to those observed in the natural stem cell niches and their ability to maintain stem cell pluripotency markers. These features were related to the substrate-specific expression and localisation of (i) cell adhesion receptors (i.e. β-integrin and N-cadherin), (ii) transcription factors of pluripotency markers and cyto-skeleton protein and (iii) regulators of cell migration throughout cell culture passages 2 to 4. The results clearly demonstrate the formation of 3D spheroids starting from the asymmetric division of substrate-adhering spread cells, the clustering of relevant integrins and the expression of specific intracellular pathways controlling cytoskeleton formation suggesting their potential use as a substrate for the handling of stem cells prior to transplantation procedures.
Original languageEnglish
Article number e0187182
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Perugini et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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