Inhibition of apoptosis in human induced pluripotent stem cells during expansion in a defined culture using angiopoietin-1 derived peptide QHREDGS
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Adhesion molecule signaling is critical to human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) survival, self-renewal, and differentiation. Thus, hPSCs are grown as clumps of cells on feeder cell layers or poorly defined extracellular matrices such as Matrigel. We sought to define a small molecule that would initiate adhesion-based signaling to serve as a basis for a defined substrate for hPSC culture. Soluble angiopoeitin-1 (Ang-1)-derived peptide QHREDGS added to defined serum-free media increased hPSC colony cell number and size during long- and short-term culture when grown on feeder cell layers or Matrigel, i.e. on standard substrates, without affecting hPSC morphology, growth rate or the ability to differentiate into multiple lineages both in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, QHREDGS treatment decreased hPSC apoptosis during routine passaging and single-cell dissociation. Mechanistically, the interaction of QHREDGS with β1-integrins increased expression of integrin-linked kinase (ILK), increased expression and activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2 (ERK1/2), and decreased caspase-3/7 activity. QHREDGS immobilization to polyethylene glycol hydrogels significantly increased cell adhesion in a dose-dependent manner. We propose QHREDGS as a small molecule inhibitor of hPSC apoptosis and the basis of an affordable defined substrate for hPSC maintenance.
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