Proportion of collagen type II in the extracellular matrix promotes the differentiation of human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells into nucleus pulposus cells

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During degeneration process, the catabolism of collagen type II and anabolism of collagen type I in nucleus pulposus (NP) may influence the bioactivity of transplanted cells. Human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hADMSCs) were cultured as a micromass or in a series of gradual proportion hydrogels of a mix of collagen types I and II. Cell proliferation and cytotoxicity were detected using CCK-8 and LDH assays respectively. The expression of differentiation-related genes and proteins, including SOX9, aggrecan, collagen type I, and collagen type II, was examined using RT-qPCR and Western blotting. Novel phenotypic genes were also detected by RT-qPCR and western blotting. Alcian blue and dimethylmethylene blue assays were used to investigate sulfate proteoglycan expression, and PI3K/AKT, MAPK/ERK, and Smad signaling pathways were examined by Western blotting. The results showed collagen hydrogels have good biocompatibility, and cell proliferation increased after collagen type II treatment. Expressions of SOX9, aggrecan, and collagen type II were increased in a collagen type II dependent manner. Sulfate proteoglycan synthesis increased in proportion to collagen type II concentration. Only hADMSCs highly expressed NP cell marker KRT19 in collagen type II culture. Additionally, phosphorylated Smad3, which is associated with phosphorylated ERK, was increased after collagen type II-stimulation. The concentration and type of collagen affect hADMSC differentiation into NP cells. Collagen type II significantly ameliorates hADMSC differentiation into NP cells and promotes extracellular matrix synthesis. Therefore, anabolism of collagen type I and catabolism of type II may attenuate the differentiation and biosynthesis of transplanted stem cells.

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