Knockdown of p21(Cip1/Waf1) enhances proliferation, the expression of stemness markers, and osteogenic potential in human mesenchymal stem cells

Aging Cell. 2011 Apr;10(2):349-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-9726.2011.00676.x. Epub 2011 Feb 23.


Mammalian aging of many tissues is associated with a decline in the replicative and functional capacity of somatic stem cells. Understanding the basis of this decline is a major goal of aging research. Human bone marrow-derived multipotent stromal cells (MSCs) have been applied in the treatment of fracture nonunion. Clinical application of MSCs requires abundant cells that can be overcome by ex vivo expansion of cells, but often at the expense of stemness and differentiation potentiality. We first demonstrated that late-passage MSCs exhibited decreased proliferation capacity, reduced expression of stemness markers such as Oct-4 and Nanog, and deterioration of osteogenic potential. Further, late-passage MSCs showed increased expression of p21(Cip1/Waf1) (p21), an inhibitor of the cyclin-dependent kinase. Knockdown of p21 by lentivirus-mediated shRNAs against p21 in late-passage MSCs increased the proliferation capacity, the expression of Oct-4 and Nanog, and osteogenic potential compared with cells transduced with control shRNA. More importantly, reduction in p21 expression in MSCs enhanced the bone repair capacity of MSCs in a rodent calvarial defect model. Knockdown of p21 in MSCs also increased the telomerase activity and telomere length, and did not show chromosomal abnormalities or acquire transformation ability. Therefore, these data successfully demonstrate the involvement of senescence gene in the expression of stemness markers and osteogenic potential of MSCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Bone Marrow Cells / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / physiology
  • Osteogenesis / physiology*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Skull / pathology
  • Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Telomere / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • RNA, Small Interfering