Multiple mechanisms determine the sensitivity of human-induced pluripotent stem cells to the inducible caspase-9 safety switch

Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev. 2016 Mar 9;3:16003. doi: 10.1038/mtm.2016.3. eCollection 2016.


Expression of the inducible caspase-9 (iC9) suicide gene is one of the most appealing safety strategies for cell therapy and has been applied for human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) to control the cell fate of hiPSC. iC9 can induce cell death of over 99% of iC9-transduced hiPSC (iC9-hiPSC) in less than 24 hours after exposure to chemical inducer of dimerization (CID). There is, however, a small number of resistant cells that subsequently outgrows. To ensure greater uniformity of the hiPSC response to iC9 activation, we purified a resistant population by culturing iC9-hiPSC with CID and analyzing the mechanisms by which the cells evade killing. We found that iC9-resistant hiPSC have significant heterogeneity in terms of their escape mechanisms from caspase-dependent apoptosis including reduced expression of iC9 by promoter silencing and overexpression of BCL2. As a consequence, modifying a single element alone will be insufficient to ensure sustained susceptibility of iC9 in all cells and prevent the eventual outgrowth of a resistant population. To solve this issue, we propose to isolate an iC9-sensitive population and show that this hiPSC line has sustained a uniform responsiveness to iC9-mediated growth control.