Side scatter intensity is highly heterogeneous in undifferentiated pluripotent stem cells and predicts clonogenic self-renewal

Stem Cells Dev. 2013 Jun 15;22(12):1851-60. doi: 10.1089/scd.2012.0658. Epub 2013 Mar 5.


In culture, human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) are phenotypically (for instance, the SSEA3 expression level) and functionally (capacity to survive after single-cell dissociation) heterogeneous. We report here that the side scatter (SSC) signal measured by flow cytometry, a variable correlated with membrane irregularity and cell granularity, is very high in PSCs, even higher than in blood polymorphonuclear cells, and markedly heterogeneous. Moreover, SSC intensity rapidly and strongly decreases upon PSC differentiation into any of the three germ layers. PSCs with high SSC (HSSC cells) or low SSC (LSSC cells) values both express pluripotency markers, but HSSC cells are characterized by more frequent simultaneous expression of the membrane pluripotency factors SSEA3, SSEA4, TRA-1-81, TRA-1-60, and CD24 and by a higher mitochondrial content. Functionally, HSSC cells are more likely to generate colonies upon single-cell passage than LSSC cells. SSC monitoring might provide a simple, but robust and rapid method to estimate pluripotency variations in culture and unveils a new phenotypic and functional heterogeneity in PSCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface / genetics
  • Antigens, Surface / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • CD24 Antigen / genetics
  • CD24 Antigen / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • Clone Cells
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetic Heterogeneity*
  • Germ Layers / cytology*
  • Germ Layers / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Proteoglycans / genetics
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism
  • Stage-Specific Embryonic Antigens / genetics
  • Stage-Specific Embryonic Antigens / metabolism
  • Teratoma / metabolism
  • Teratoma / pathology


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Biomarkers
  • CD24 Antigen
  • CD24 protein, human
  • Proteoglycans
  • Stage-Specific Embryonic Antigens
  • TRA-1-60 antigen, human
  • TRA-1-81 antigen, human