Towards optimisation of induced pluripotent cell culture: Extracellular acidification results in growth arrest of iPSC prior to nutrient exhaustion

Toxicol In Vitro. 2017 Dec;45(Pt 3):445-454. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2017.07.023. Epub 2017 Aug 15.


Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) have the potential to radically reduce the number of animals used in both toxicological science and disease elucidation. One initial obstacle culturing iPSC is that they require daily medium exchange. This study attempts to clarify why and propose some practical solutions. Two iPSC lineages were fed at different intervals in a full growth area (FGA) or a restricted growth area (RGA). The FGA consisted of a well coated with Matrigel™ and the RGA consisted of a coated coverslip placed in a well. Glucose, lactate, extracellular pH and cell cycle phases were quantified. Without daily feeding, FGA cultured iPSC had significantly reduced growth rates by day 2 and began to die by day 3. In contrast, RGA cultured cells grew to confluence over 3days. Surprisingly, glucose was not exhausted under any condition. However, extracellular pH reached 6.8 after 72h in FGA cultures. Artificially reducing medium pH to 6.8 also inhibited glycolysis and initiated an increase in G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle, while adding an additional 10mM bicarbonate to the medium increased glycolysis rates. This study demonstrates that iPSC are highly sensitive to extracellular acidification, a likely limiting factor in maintenance of proliferative and pluripotent status. Culturing iPSC in RGA prevents rapid extracellular acidification, while still maintaining pluripotency and allowing longer feeding cycles.

Keywords: Cell cycle; Glucose; Growth arrest; Lactate; iPS; pH.

MeSH terms

  • Acids
  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Death
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen
  • Culture Media / chemistry*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Embryoid Bodies
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Laminin
  • Proteoglycans


  • Acids
  • Culture Media
  • Drug Combinations
  • Laminin
  • Proteoglycans
  • matrigel
  • Lactic Acid
  • Collagen
  • Glucose