Increased SCF/c-kit by hypoxia promotes autophagy of human placental chorionic plate-derived mesenchymal stem cells via regulating the phosphorylation of mTOR

J Cell Biochem. 2013 Jan;114(1):79-88. doi: 10.1002/jcb.24303.


Hypoxia triggers physiological and pathological cellular processes, including proliferation, differentiation, and death, in several cell types. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) derived from various tissues have self-renewal activity and can differentiate towards multiple lineages. Recently, it has been reported that hypoxic conditions tip the balance between survival and death by hypoxia-induced autophagy, although the underlying mechanism is not clear. The objectives of this study are to compare the effect of hypoxia on the self-renewal of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs) and placental chorionic plate-derived mesenchymal stem cells (CP-MSCs) and to investigate the regulatory mechanisms of self-renewal in each MSC type during hypoxia. The expression of self-renewal markers (e.g., Oct4, Nanog, Sox2) was assessed in both cell lines. PI3K and stem cell factor (SCF) expression gradually increased in CP-MSCs but were markedly downregulated in BM-MSCs by hypoxia. The phosphorylation of ERK and mTOR was augmented by hypoxia in CP-MSCs compared to control. Also, the expression of LC3 II, a component of the autophagosome and the hoof-shaped autophagosome was detected more rapidly in CP-MSCs than in BM-MSCs under hypoxia. Hypoxia induced the expression of SCF in CP-MSCs and increased SCF/c-kit pathway promotes the self-renewal activities of CP-MSCs via an autocrine/paracrine mechanism that balances cell survival and cell death events by autophagy. These activities occur to a greater extent in CP-MSCs than in BM-MSCs through regulating the phosphorylation of mTOR. These findings will provide useful guidelines for better understanding the function of SCF/c-kit in the self-renewal and autophagy-regulated mechanisms that promote of MSC survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy / drug effects*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Bone Marrow Cells / drug effects
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Chorion / cytology
  • Chorion / drug effects
  • Chorion / metabolism
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / genetics
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / pharmacology
  • Phagosomes / drug effects
  • Phagosomes / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / genetics
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Placenta / cytology
  • Placenta / drug effects
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Stem Cell Factor / genetics
  • Stem Cell Factor / metabolism*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Stem Cell Factor
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases
  • Oxygen