Background: Adipogenesis is the developmental process by which mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) differentiate into pre-adipocytes and adipocytes. The aim of the study was to analyze the developmental strategies of human bone marrow MSC developing into adipocytes over a defined time scale. Here we were particularly interested in differentially expressed transcription factors and biochemical pathways. We studied genome-wide gene expression profiling of human MSC based on an adipogenic differentiation experiment with five different time points (day 0, 1, 3, 7 and 17), which was designed and performed in reference to human fat tissue. For data processing and selection of adipogenic candidate genes, we used the online database SiPaGene for Affymetrix microarray expression data.
Results: The mesenchymal stem cell character of human MSC cultures was proven by cell morphology, by flow cytometry analysis and by the ability of the cells to develop into the osteo-, chondro- and adipogenic lineage. Moreover we were able to detect 184 adipogenic candidate genes (85 with increased, 99 with decreased expression) that were differentially expressed during adipogenic development of MSC and/or between MSC and fat tissue in a highly significant way (p < 0.00001). Subsequently, groups of up- or down-regulated genes were formed and analyzed with biochemical and cluster tools. Among the 184 genes, we identified already known transcription factors such as PPARG, C/EBPA and RTXA. Several of the genes could be linked to corresponding biochemical pathways like the adipocyte differentiation, adipocytokine signalling, and lipogenesis pathways. We also identified new candidate genes possibly related to adipogenesis, such as SCARA5, coding for a receptor with a putative transmembrane domain and a collagen-like domain, and MRAP, encoding an endoplasmatic reticulum protein.
Conclusions: Comparing differential gene expression profiles of human MSC and native fat cells or tissue allowed us to establish a comprehensive differential kinetic gene expression network of adipogenesis. Based on this, we identified known and unknown genes and biochemical pathways that may be relevant for adipogenic differentiation. Our results encourage further and more focused studies on the functional relevance of particular adipogenic candidate genes.