Int J Med Sci 2021; 18(6):1375-1381. doi:10.7150/ijms.52104 This issue

Research Paper

Resistance of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells in a stressed environment - Comparison with osteocyte cells

Miyako Shimasaki1#, Shusuke Ueda2#, Toru Ichiseki2✉#, Hiroaki Hirata2, Norio Kawahara2, Yoshimichi Ueda1

1. Department of Pathology 2, Kanazawa Medical University, Daigaku 1-1, Uchinada, Kahoku-gun, Ishikawa, 920-0293, Japan.
2. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Kanazawa Medical University, Daigaku 1-1, Uchinada-machi, Kahoku-gun, Ishikawa 920-0293, Japan.
#These authors contributed equally to this work.

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Shimasaki M, Ueda S, Ichiseki T, Hirata H, Kawahara N, Ueda Y. Resistance of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells in a stressed environment - Comparison with osteocyte cells. Int J Med Sci 2021; 18(6):1375-1381. doi:10.7150/ijms.52104. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Introduction: Recently, the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) mediated by their tissue repair and anti-inflammatory actions in the prevention and therapy of various disorders has been reported. In this research, our attention was focused specifically on the prevention and therapy of glucocorticoid-induced osteonecrosis. We investigated the stress resistance of MSC against glucocorticoid administration and hypoxic stress, which are factors known to induce osteocytic cell death.

Materials and Methods: Mouse bone cells (MLO-Y4) and bone-marrow derived mouse MSCs were exposed to dexamethasone (Dex), hypoxia of 1% oxygen or both in vitro. Mitochondrial membrane potentials were estimated by mitochondria labeling with a cell-permeant probe (Mito tracker red); expression of these apoptosis-inducing molecules, oxidative stress marker (8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine), caspase-3, -9, and two apoptosis-inhibiting molecules, energy-producing ATP synthase (ATP5A) and X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP), were analyzed by both immunofluorescence and western blot.

Results: With exposure to either dexamethasone or hypoxia, MLO-Y4 showed reduced mitochondrial membrane potential, ATP5A and upregulation of 8-OHdG, cleaved caspases and XIAP. Those changes were significantly enhanced by treatment with dexamethasone plus hypoxia. In MSCs, however, mitochondrial membrane potentials were preserved, while no significant changes in the pro-apoptosis or anti-apoptosis molecules analyzed were found even with exposure to both dexamethasone and hypoxia. No such effects induced by treatment with dexamethasone, hypoxia, or both were demonstrated in MSCs at all.

Discussion: In osteocyte cells subjected to the double stresses of glucocorticoid administration and a hypoxic environment osteocytic cell death was mediated via mitochondria. In contrast, MSC subjected to the same stressors showed preservation of mitochondrial function and reduced oxidative stress. Accordingly, even under conditions sufficiently stressful to cause the osteocytic cell death in vivo, it was thought that the function of MSC could be preserved, suggesting that in the case of osteonecrosis preventative and therapeutic strategies incorporating their intraosseous implantation may be promising.

Keywords: mesenchymal stem cell (MSC), mitochondrial function, oxidative injury, apoptosis