Hypoxic Stress Forces Irreversible Differentiation of a Majority of Mouse Trophoblast Stem Cells Despite FGF41

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Hypoxic, hyperosmotic, and genotoxic stress slow mouse trophoblast stem cell (mTSC) proliferation, decrease potency/stemness, and increase differentiation. Previous reports suggest a period of reversibility in stress-induced mTSC differentiation. Here we show that hypoxic stress at 0.5% O2 decreased potency factor protein by ∼60%–90% and reduced growth to nil. Hypoxia caused a 35-fold increase in apoptosis at Day 3 and a 2-fold increase at Day 6 above baseline. The baseline apoptosis rate was only 0.3%. Total protein was never less than baseline during hypoxic treatment, suggesting 0.5% O2 is a robust, nonmorbid stressor. Hypoxic stress induced ∼50% of trophoblast giant cell (TGC) differentiation with a simultaneous 5- to 6-fold increase in the TGC product antiluteolytic prolactin family 3, subfamily d, member 1 (PRL3D1), despite the presence of fibroblast growth factor 4 (FGF4). Hypoxia-induced TGC differentiation was also supported by potency and differentiation mRNA marker analysis. FGF4 removal at 20% O2 committed cell fate towards irreversible differentiation at 2 days, with similar TGC percentages after an additional 3 days of culture under potency conditions when FGF4 was readded or under differentiation conditions without FGF4. However, hypoxic stress required 4 days to irreversibly differentiate cells. Runted stem cell growth, forced differentiation of fewer cells, and irreversible differentiation limit total available stem cell population. Were mTSCs to respond to stress in a similar mode in vivo, miscarriage might occur as a result, which should be tested in the future.

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