CRISPR/Cas9-mediated reversibly immortalized mouse bone marrow stromal stem cells (BMSCs) retain multipotent features of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)

Oncotarget. 2017 Dec 5;8(67):111847-111865. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.22915. eCollection 2017 Dec 19.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent non-hematopoietic progenitor cells that can undergo self-renewal and differentiate into multi-lineages. Bone marrow stromal stem cells (BMSCs) represent one of the most commonly-used MSCs. In order to overcome the technical challenge of maintaining primary BMSCs in long-term culture, here we seek to establish reversibly immortalized mouse BMSCs (imBMSCs). By exploiting CRISPR/Cas9-based homology-directed-repair (HDR) mechanism, we target SV40T to mouse Rosa26 locus and efficiently immortalize mouse BMSCs (i.e., imBMSCs). We also immortalize BMSCs with retroviral vector SSR #41 and establish imBMSC41 as a control line. Both imBMSCs and imBMSC41 exhibit long-term proliferative capability although imBMSC41 cells have a higher proliferation rate. SV40T mRNA expression is 130% higher in imBMSC41 than that in imBMSCs. However, FLP expression leads to 86% reduction of SV40T expression in imBMSCs, compared with 63% in imBMSC41 cells. Quantitative genomic PCR analysis indicates that the average copy number of SV40T and hygromycin is 1.05 for imBMSCs and 2.07 for imBMSC41, respectively. Moreover, FLP expression removes 92% of SV40T in imBMSCs at the genome DNA level, compared with 58% of that in imBMSC41 cells, indicating CRISPR/Cas9 HDR-mediated immortalization of BMSCs can be more effectively reversed than that of retrovirus-mediated random integrations. Nonetheless, both imBMSCs and imBMSC41 lines express MSC markers and are highly responsive to BMP9-induced osteogenic, chondrogenic and adipogenic differentiation in vitro and in vivo. Thus, the engineered imBMSCs can be used as a promising alternative source of primary MSCs for basic and translational research in the fields of MSC biology and regenerative medicine.

Keywords: BMP9; CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing; bone marrow stromal stem cells (BMSCs); mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs); osteogenic differentiation.