Potential conversion of adult clavicle-derived chondrocytes into neural lineage cells in vitro
Neural stem cells (NSC) can be isolated from a variety of adult tissues and become a valuable cell source for the repair of peripheral and central nervous diseases. However, their origin and identity remain controversial because of possible de-differentiation/transdifferentiation or contaminations by hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). We hypothesize that the commonly used NSC culture medium can induce committed cartilage chondrocytes to de-differentiate and/or trans-differentiate into neural cell lineages. Using a biological isolation and purification method with explants culture, we here show that adult rat clavicle cartilage chondrocytes migrate out from tissue blocks, form sphere-like structures, possess the capability of self-renewal, express nestin and p75NTR, markers for neural crest progenitors, and differentiate into neurons, glia, and smooth muscle cells. Comparing with adult cartilage, the spherical-forming neural crest cell-like cells downregulate the chondrocytic marker genes, including collagen II, collagen X, and sox9, as well as neural-lineage repressors/silencers REST and coREST, but upregulate a set of well-defined genes related to neural crest cells and pro-neural potential. Nerve growth factor (NGF) and glial growth factor (GGF) increase glial and neuronal differentiation, respectively. These results suggest that chondrocytes derived from adult clavicle cartilage can become neural crest stem-like cells and acquire neuronal phenotypes in vitro. The possible de-differentiation/trans-differentiation mechanisms underlying the conversion were discussed. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.