Loss of discordant cells during micro-mass differentiation of embryonic stem cells into the chondrocyte lineage

Cell Death Differ. 2009 Feb;16(2):278-86. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2008.149. Epub 2008 Oct 17.


Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have attracted particular interest in regenerative medicine because of their unlimited self-renewal and multipotentiality for differentiation. Spontaneous differentiated ESCs display heterogeneous multipotent cell populations and generate teratomas in vivo, with process by which ESCs differentiate into specific lineages remaining unclear. In this study, we focused on the in vitro chondrocyte differentiation of ESCs through micro-mass without using an embryoid body (EB) step and observed the unique characteristics of cartilage formation coupled with endochondral ossification in vivo. This approach resulted in an aggressive loss of discordant cells by apoptosis, which was accompanied by significant changes in gene expression during the course of ESC differentiation into chondrocytes. Unlike EB formation where discordant cells remain trapped within aggregates, micro-mass permits cells to die, leave the group and/or form a new group in response to changes in gene expression. Our observations suggest that the cell death that accompanies ESC micro-mass differentiation helps purify a terminally differentiated cell population and selects for targeted end points within a suitable microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocytes / cytology*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mice