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A human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cell (MSCs) and cord blood-derived CD34+ stem cell co-culture system was set up in order to evaluate the proliferative and differentiative effects induced by MSCs on CD34+ stem cells, and the reciprocal influences on gene expression profiles. After 10 days of co-culture, non-adherent (SN-fraction) and adherent (AD-fraction) CD34+ stem cells were collected and analysed separately. In the presence of MSCs, a significant increase in CD34+ cell number was observed (fold increase = 14.68), mostly in the SN-fraction (fold increase = 13.20). This was combined with a significant increase in CD34+ cell differentiation towards the BFU-E colonies and with a decrease in the CFU-GM. These observations were confirmed by microarray analysis. Through gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA), we noted a significant enrichment in genes involved in heme metabolism (e.g. LAMP2, CLCN3, BMP2K), mitotic spindle formation and proliferation (e.g. PALLD, SOS1, CCNA1) and TGF-beta signalling (e.g. ID1) and a down-modulation of genes participating in myeloid and lymphoid differentiation (e.g. PCGF2) in the co-cultured CD34+ stem cells. On the other hand, a significant enrichment in genes involved in oxygen-level response (e.g. TNFAIP3, SLC2A3, KLF6) and angiogenesis (e.g. VEGFA, IGF1, ID1) was found in the co-cultured MSCs. Taken together, our results suggest that MSCs can exert a priming effect on CD34+ stem cells, regulating their proliferation and erythroid differentiation. In turn, CD34+ stem cells seem to be able to polarise the BM-niche towards the vascular compartment by modulating molecular pathways related to hypoxia and angiogenesis.

Original publication




Journal article


PloS one

Publication Date





Laboratorio CREA (Centro di Ricerca Emato-oncologica AIL), ASST Spedali Civili of Brescia, Brescia, Italy.


Hematopoietic Stem Cells, Cells, Cultured, Erythroid Cells, Fetal Blood, Humans, Antigens, CD34, Coculture Techniques, Cell Separation, Cell Proliferation, Adult, Female, Male, Adult Stem Cells, Young Adult, Transcriptome, Mesenchymal Stromal Cells