1. Department of Ophthalmology, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei Province 430030, China
2. Tissue Tech Inc, Miami, Florida, 33126 USA
*Wei Wang and Shen Li contribute equally to this manuscript.
Purpose: To compare the difference in gene expression between human limbal niche cells (LNC) and bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMMSC).
Methods: LNC were isolated by collagenase and expanded in modified embryonic stem cell medium (MESCM) on a Matrigel coated plastic plate. Cell diameters were measured with Image J software. Relative gene expression levels between LNC and BMMSC were compared using Affymetrix Human Primer View Gene Expression Array. A subset of differentially expressed genes was verified by RT-qPCR. The protein level of LAMA1 and COL4A1 was confirmed by Western blot and immunostaining.
Results: The average diameter of LNC was 10.2±2.4 μm, which was significantly smaller than that of BMMSC (14 ±3.4 μm) (p<0.0001). Expression of 20,432 genes was examined by Gene Expression Array, among which expression of 349 genes in LNC was 10-fold or higher than that of BMMSC and expression of 8 genes in LNC was 100-fold or higher than that of BMMSC, while expression of 3 genes in BMMSC was 100-fold higher than that of LNC. GO analysis and pathway analysis showed that the differentially expressed genes were mainly enriched in the extracellular matrix receptor interaction pathway and Wnt signaling pathway. In addition, RT-qPCR results demonstrated that the expression of CD73, CD90, CD105, PDGFRβ, Vimentin, SCF, KIT (CD117), COL14A1, LAMA2, THBS2, FZD1, BMP2 and CXCL12 genes in LNC were at least 2 folds higher than BMMSC. The protein level of LAMA1 was higher but the protein level of COL4A1 was lower in LNC than that in BMMSC.
Conclusion: LNC exhibit differential gene expression from BMMSC in the extracellular matrix (ECM) receptor interaction pathway and Wnt signaling pathway, suggesting that LNC have their unique signaling pathways to support limbal stem cell niches.
Keywords: Gene expression, gene chip, LNC, BMMSC