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Human Embryonic Stem Cells Express Elevated Levels of Multiple Pro-Apoptotic BCL-2 Family Members

Madden, D.T., Davila-Kruger, D., Melov, S., Bredesen, D.E.

Two of the greatest challenges in regenerative medicine today remain (1) the ability to culture human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) at a scale sufficient to satisfy clinical demand and (2) the ability to eliminate teratoma-forming cells from preparations of cells with clinically desirable phenotypes. Understanding the pathways governing apoptosis in hESCs may provide a means to address these issues. Limiting apoptosis could aid scaling efforts, whereas triggering selective apoptosis in hESCs could eliminate unwanted teratoma-forming cells. We focus here on the BCL-2 family of proteins, which regulate mitochondrial-dependent apoptosis. We used quantitative PCR to compare the steady-state expression profile of all human BCL-2 family members in hESCs with that of human primary cells from various origins and two cancer lines. Our findings indicate that hESCs express elevated levels of the pro-apoptotic BH3-only BCL-2 family members NOXA, BIK, BIM, BMF and PUMA when compared with differentiated cells and cancer cells. However, compensatory expression of pro-survival BCL-2 family members in hESCs was not observed, suggesting a possible explanation for the elevated rates of apoptosis observed in proliferating hESC cultures, as well as a mechanism that could be exploited to limit hESC-derived neoplasms.

Citation

Madden, D.T., Davila-Kruger, D., Melov, S., Bredesen, D.E. "Human Embryonic Stem Cells Express Elevated Levels of Multiple Pro-Apoptotic BCL-2 Family Members" PLoS One (2011): e28530