Stem cells derived from human fetal membranes display multilineage differentiation potential

Biol Reprod. 2007 Sep;77(3):577-88. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.106.055244. Epub 2007 May 9.


The amnion is the inner of two membranes surrounding the fetus. That it arises from embryonic epiblast cells prior to gastrulation suggests that it may retain a reservoir of stem cells throughout pregnancy. We found that human amniotic epithelial cells (hAECs) harvested from term-delivered fetal membranes express mRNA and proteins present in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), including POU domain, class 5, transcription factor 1; Nanog homeobox; SRY-box 2; and stage-specific embryonic antigen-4. In keeping with possible stem cell-like activity, hAECs were also clonogenic, and primary hAEC cultures could be induced to differentiate into cardiomyocytic, myocytic, osteocytic, adipocytic (mesodermal), pancreatic, hepatic (endodermal), neural, and astrocytic (neuroectodermal) cells in vitro, as defined by phenotypic, mRNA expression, immunocytochemical, and/or ultrastructural characteristics. However, unlike hESCs, hAECs did not form teratomas upon transplantation into severe combined immunodeficiency mice testes. Last, using flow cytometry we have shown that only a very small proportion of primary hAECs contain class IA and class II human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), consistent with a low risk of tissue rejection. However, following differentiation into hepatic and pancreatic lineages, significant proportions of cells contained class IA, but not class II, HLAs. These observations suggest that the term amnion, an abundant and easily accessible tissue, may be a useful source of multipotent stem cells that possess a degree of immune privilege.

MeSH terms

  • Amnion / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / biosynthesis
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Female
  • Fetal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Fetal Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Glycosphingolipids / biosynthesis
  • Glycosphingolipids / genetics
  • HMGB Proteins / biosynthesis
  • HMGB Proteins / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / biosynthesis
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / biosynthesis
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Nanog Homeobox Protein
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / biosynthesis
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors
  • Stage-Specific Embryonic Antigens
  • Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Glycosphingolipids
  • HMGB Proteins
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • NANOG protein, human
  • Nanog Homeobox Protein
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3
  • POU5F1 protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SOX2 protein, human
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors
  • Sox2 protein, mouse
  • Stage-Specific Embryonic Antigens
  • Transcription Factors
  • stage-specific embryonic antigen-4