Bone marrow stromal cells from MDS and AML patients show increased adipogenic potential with reduced Delta-like-1 expression

Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 15;11(1):5944. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-85122-8.


Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are clonal hematopoietic stem cell disorders with a poor prognosis, especially for elderly patients. Increasing evidence suggests that alterations in the non-hematopoietic microenvironment (bone marrow niche) can contribute to or initiate malignant transformation and promote disease progression. One of the key components of the bone marrow (BM) niche are BM stromal cells (BMSC) that give rise to osteoblasts and adipocytes. It has been shown that the balance between these two cell types plays an important role in the regulation of hematopoiesis. However, data on the number of BMSC and the regulation of their differentiation balance in the context of hematopoietic malignancies is scarce. We established a stringent flow cytometric protocol for the prospective isolation of a CD73+ CD105+ CD271+ BMSC subpopulation from uncultivated cryopreserved BM of MDS and AML patients as well as age-matched healthy donors. BMSC from MDS and AML patients showed a strongly reduced frequency of CFU-F (colony forming unit-fibroblast). Moreover, we found an altered phenotype and reduced replating efficiency upon passaging of BMSC from MDS and AML samples. Expression analysis of genes involved in adipo- and osteogenic differentiation as well as Wnt- and Notch-signalling pathways showed significantly reduced levels of DLK1, an early adipogenic cell fate inhibitor in MDS and AML BMSC. Matching this observation, functional analysis showed significantly increased in vitro adipogenic differentiation potential in BMSC from MDS and AML patients. Overall, our data show BMSC with a reduced CFU-F capacity, and an altered molecular and functional profile from MDS and AML patients in culture, indicating an increased adipogenic lineage potential that is likely to provide a disease-promoting microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipogenesis* / genetics
  • Biomarkers
  • Bone Marrow / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Differentiation* / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic*
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / genetics*
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / pathology


  • Biomarkers
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • DLK1 protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins