Potential mechanisms underlying ectodermal differentiation of Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stem cells

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2016 Sep 16;478(2):831-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2016.08.033. Epub 2016 Aug 5.


Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stem cells (WJMSCs) are being increasingly recognized for their ectodermal differentiation potential. Previously, we demonstrated that when WJMSC were seeded onto an acellular matrix material derived from Wharton's jelly and cultured in osteogenic induction media, generated CK19 positive cells and hair-like structures indicative of ectodermal differentiation of WJMSCs. In this manuscript, we examine the underlying mechanism behind this observation using a variety of microscopy and molecular biology techniques such as western blotting and qPCR. We demonstrate that these hair-like structures are associated with live cells that are positive for epithelial and mesenchymal markers such as cytokeratin-19 and α-smooth muscle actin, respectively. We also show that up-regulation of β-catenin and noggin, along with the expression of TGF-β and SMAD and inhibition of BMP4 could be the mechanism behind this ectodermal differentiation and hair-like structure formation.

Keywords: Beta-catenin; Decellularized Wharton's jelly matrix; Ectodermal differentiation; Hair-like structures; Osteogenic differentiation media; Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stem cells.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / genetics
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4 / genetics
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4 / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Keratin-19 / genetics*
  • Keratin-19 / metabolism
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Osteogenesis / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Smad Proteins / genetics
  • Smad Proteins / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Umbilical Cord / cytology
  • Umbilical Cord / metabolism
  • Wharton Jelly / cytology
  • Wharton Jelly / metabolism*
  • beta Catenin / genetics
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • ACTA2 protein, human
  • Actins
  • BMP4 protein, human
  • Biomarkers
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Keratin-19
  • Smad Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • beta Catenin
  • noggin protein