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Small SSEA-4-positive cells from human ovarian cell cultures: related to embryonic stem cells and germinal lineage?

Virant-Klun, I., Stimpfel, M., Cvjeticanin, B., Vrtacnik-Bokal, E., Skutella, T.

Background
It has already been found that very small embyronic-like stem cells (VSELs) are present in adult human tissues and organs. The aim of this study was to find if there exists any similar population of cells in cell cultures of reproductive tissues and embryonic stem cells, and if these cells have any relation to pluripotency and germinal lineage.

Methods and results
Here we report that a population of small SSEA-4-positive cells with diameters of up to 4 μm was isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) from the human ovarian cell cultures after enzymatic degradation of adult cortex tissues. These small cells – putative ovarian stem cells – were also observed during cell culturing of up to 6 months and more. In general, small putative ovarian stem cells, isolated by FACS, showed a relatively low gene expression profile when compared to human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and human adult fibroblasts; this may reflect the quiescent state of these cells. In spite of that, small putative ovarian stem cells expressed several genes related to primordial germ cells (PGCs), pluripotency and germinal lineage, including VASA. The PGC-related gene PRDM1 was strongly expressed in small putative ovarian stem cells; in both hESCs and fibroblasts it was significantly down-regulated. In addition, putative ovarian stem cells expressed other PGC-related genes, such as PRDM14 and DPPA3. Most of the pluripotency and germinal lineage-related genes were up-regulated in hESCs (except VASA). When compared to fibroblasts, there were several pluripotency-related genes, which were up-regulated in small putative ovarian stem cells. Similar populations of small cells were also isolated by FACS from human testicular and hESC cultures.

Conclusions
Our results confirm the potential embryonic-like character of small putative stem cells isolated from human adult ovaries and their possible relation to germinal lineage.

Citation

Virant-Klun, I., Stimpfel, M., Cvjeticanin, B., Vrtacnik-Bokal, E., Skutella, T. "Small SSEA-4-positive cells from human ovarian cell cultures: related to embryonic stem cells and germinal lineage?" Journal of Ovarian Research (2013): 24