Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling Activation Induces Differentiation in Human Limbal Epithelial Stem Cells Cultured Ex Vivo

pubmed: wnt1 2023-12-04

Biomedicines. 2023 Jun 26;11(7):1829. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines11071829.


Human limbal epithelial stem cells (hLESCs) continuously replenish lost or damaged human corneal epithelial cells. The percentage of stem/progenitor cells in autologous ex vivo expanded tissue is essential for the long-term success of transplantation in patients with limbal epithelial stem cell deficiency. However, the molecular processes governing the stemness and differentiation state of hLESCs remain uncertain. Therefore, we sought to explore the impact of canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling activation on hLESCs by treating ex vivo expanded hLESC cultures with GSK-3 inhibitor LY2090314. Real-time qRT-PCR and microarray data reveal the downregulation of stemness (TP63), progenitor (SOX9), quiescence (CEBPD), and proliferation (MKI67, PCNA) genes and the upregulation of genes for differentiation (CX43, KRT3) in treated- compared to non-treated samples. The pathway activation was shown by AXIN2 upregulation and enhanced levels of accumulated β-catenin. Immunocytochemistry and Western blot confirmed the findings for most of the above-mentioned markers. The Wnt/β-catenin signaling profile demonstrated an upregulation of WNT1, WNT3, WNT5A, WNT6, and WNT11 gene expression and a downregulation for WNT7A and DKK1 in the treated samples. No significant differences were found for WNT2, WNT16B, WIF1, and DKK2 gene expression. Overall, our results demonstrate that activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in ex vivo expanded hLESCs governs the cells towards differentiation and reduces proliferation and stem cell maintenance capability.

PMID:37509479 | PMC:PMC10377110 | DOI:10.3390/biomedicines11071829