BACKGROUND: The use of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) for research and clinical application is hampered by cellular heterogeneity and replicative senescence. Generation of MSC-like cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) may circumvent these limitations, and such iPSC-derived MSCs (iMSCs) are already tested in clinical trials. So far, a comparison of MSCs and iMSCs was particularly addressed in bulk culture. Despite the high hopes in cellular therapy, only little is known how the composition of different subclones changes in these cell preparations during culture expansion.
METHODS: In this study, we used multicolor lentiviral genetic barcoding for the marking of individual cells within cell preparations. Based on this, we could track the clonal composition of syngenic MSCs, iPSCs, and iMSCs during culture expansion. Furthermore, we analyzed DNA methylation patterns at senescence-associated genomic regions by barcoded bisulfite amplicon sequencing. The proliferation and differentiation capacities of individual subclones within MSCs and iMSCs were investigated with limiting dilution assays.
RESULTS: Overall, the clonal composition of primary MSCs and iPSCs gradually declined during expansion. In contrast, iMSCs became oligoclonal early during differentiation, indicating that they were derived from few individual iPSCs. This dominant clonal outgrowth of iMSCs was not associated with changes in chromosomal copy number variation. Furthermore, clonal dynamics were not clearly reflected by stochastically acquired DNA methylation patterns. Limiting dilution assays revealed that iMSCs are heterogeneous in colony formation and in vitro differentiation potential, while this was even more pronounced in primary MSCs.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that the subclonal diversity of MSCs and iPSCs declines gradually during in vitro culture, whereas derivation of iMSCs may stem from few individual iPSCs. Differentiation regimen needs to be further optimized to achieve homogeneous differentiation of iPSCs towards iMSCs.