Author(s): Strassburg S, Hodson NW, Hill PI, Richardson SM, Hoyland JA
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Abstract Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-based therapies have been proposed as novel treatments for intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration. We have previously demonstrated that when MSCs are co-cultured with nucleus pulposus (NP) cells with direct cell-cell contact, they differentiate along the NP lineage and simultaneously stimulate the degenerate NP cell population to regain a normal (non-degenerate) phenotype, an effect which requires cell-cell communication. However, the mechanisms by which NP cells and MSCs interact in this system are currently unclear. Thus, in this study we investigated a range of potential mechanisms for exchange of cellular components or information that may direct these changes, including cell fusion, gap-junctional communication and exchange of membrane components by direct transfer or via microvesicle formation. Flow cytometry of fluorescently labeled MSCs and NP cells revealed evidence of some cell fusion and formation of gapjunctions, although at the three timepoints studied these phenomena were detectable only in a small proportion of cells. While these mechanisms may play a role in cell-cell communication, the data suggests they are not the predominant mechanism of interaction. However, flow cytometry of fluorescently dual-labeled cells showed that extensive bi-directional transfer of membrane components is operational during direct co-culture of MSCs and NP cells. Furthermore, there was also evidence for secretion and internalization of membrane-bound microvesicles by both cell types. Thus, this study highlights bi-directional intercellular transfer of membrane components as a possible mechanism of cellular communication between MSC and NP cells.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Journal of Bioengineering and Bioelectronics