Human umbilical cord blood (UCB)-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are useful tools for regenerative medicine due to their capacity for self-renewal and multi-lineage differentiation. The appropriate clinical application of MSCs for regenerative medicine requires an integrated understanding of multiple signaling pathways that regulate cell proliferation, stemness and differentiation. However, the potential molecular mechanisms mediating these functions are not completely understood. The effects of hedgehog (Hh) signaling on the osteogenic differentiation of MSCs are still controversial, and the underlying mechanisms are unclear. In the present study, we evaluated the direct effects of Hh signaling on the osteogenic differentiation of hUCB-MSCs and investigated potential downstream regulatory mechanisms responsible for Hh signaling. We observed that Hh signaling acts as a negative regulator of osteogenic differentiation through the suppression of RNA-binding Msi1, which in turn suppresses the expression of Wnt1 and the miR-148 family, especially miR-148b. Moreover, Hh and Msi1 are considered to be potential stemness markers of hUCB-MSCs due to their differentiation-dependent expression profiles. This study provides new insights into mechanisms regulating MSC differentiation and may have implications for a variety of therapeutic applications in the clinic.
Keywords: RNA-binding Msi1; Wnt1; hedgehog (Hh); miR-148; osteogenic differentiation.