Hypoxia has been considered to affect the properties of tissue stem cells including mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Effects of long periods of exposure to hypoxia on human MSCs, however, have not been clearly demonstrated. MSCs cultured under normoxic conditions (20% pO(2)) ceased to proliferate after 15-25 population doublings, while MSCs cultured under hypoxic conditions (1% pO(2)) retained the ability to proliferate with an additional 8-20 population doublings. Most of the MSCs cultured under normoxic conditions were in a senescent state after 100days, while few senescent cells were found in the hypoxic culture, which was associated with a down-regulation of p16 gene expression. MSCs cultured for 100days under hypoxic conditions were superior to those cultured under normoxic conditions in the ability to differentiate into the chondro- and adipogenic, but not osteogenic, lineage. Among the molecules related to mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways, extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK) was significantly down-regulated by hypoxia, which helped to inhibit the up-regulation of p16 gene expression. Therefore, the hypoxic culture retained MSCs in an undifferentiated and senescence-free state through the down-regulation of p16 and ERK.
Copyright 2010. Published by Elsevier Inc.