Quantitative approaches to detect donor and passage differences in adipogenic potential and clonogenicity in human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells

Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2012 Nov;18(11):877-89. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2011.0736. Epub 2012 Jun 25.


Bone marrow-derived multipotent stromal cells (MSCs), also known as mesenchymal stem cells, have great promise due to their capacity for tri-lineage differentiation and immunosuppressive properties, which allows for their allogeneic use and ultimately may allow for treatment of many diseases. MSCs will require extensive expansion and passaging to obtain cells in sufficient numbers necessary for cell therapies. MSCs from many donors could potentially be used. Because of this, there is a need to understand the role of passaging and donor differences on differentiation capacity using quantitative approaches. Here, we evaluated MSCs from two donors (noted as PCBM1632 and PCBM1641 by the manufacturer) at tissue culture passages 3, 5, and 7. We used a colony forming unit (CFU) assay and limiting dilution to quantify clonogenicity and precursor frequency during adipogenesis, and quantitative real-time-polymerase chain reaction for adipogenic markers to evaluate changes on a gene expression level. Further, we observed changes in cell size, and we sorted small and large populations to evaluate size-related adipogenic potential. While the adipogenic precursor frequency of ∼1 in 76 cells remained similar through passages for cells from PCBM1641, we found a large decrease in the adipogenic potential of MSCs from PCBM1632, with 1 in 2035 cells being capable of differentiating into an adipocyte at passage 7. MSCs from both donors showed an increase in cell diameter with increasing passage, which correlates with a decrease in clonogenicity by CFU analysis. We also measured adipose lineage gene expression following induction of adipocyte differentiation. Expression of these genes decreased with passage number for MSCs from PCBM1632 and correlated with the decrease in adipogenic potential by passage 7. In contrast, MSCs from PCBM1641 showed increased expression of these genes with increasing passage. We have shown that several quantitative assays can detect differences in MSC differentiation capacity, clonogenicity, and cell size between donors and passages. These quantitative methods are useful to assess the quality of MSCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipogenesis* / genetics
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Size
  • Clone Cells
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tissue Donors


  • Biomarkers