Generation of enhanced definitive endoderm from human embryonic stem cells under an albumin/insulin-free and chemically defined condition

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To enhance survival and generation of definitive endoderm cells from human embryonic stem cells in a simple and reproducible system.

Main methods:

Definitive endoderm (DE) differentiation from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) was induced under a chemical-defined condition withdrawn insulin supplement and serum albumin. We dissected influence of “alternative growth factors”, WNT3A, BMP4 and bFGF in activin A-driven differentiation by detection of DE-associated genes expression and cell viability. Expression of DE-associated SOX17 and FOXA2 genes was analyzed by real time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Western blot assays. Quantitative evaluation of DE efficiency was performed by flow cytometry analysis of CXCR4-expressed cell population. Cell viability during DE differentiation was analyzed by an Annexin V/PI double staining test.

Key findings:

Supplementation with WNT3A, BMP4 or bFGF promoted DE generation in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Cell apoptosis elicited by activin A was significantly ameliorated by a cocktail with WNT3A, BMP4 and bFGF. This allowed for sustained cell viability without insulin-containing supplements, thereby indirectly improving the efficiency of DE generation. Therefore, the cocktail containing is optimal for efficient DE generation in the presence of activin A and an insulin/albumin-free condition.


This optimal condition facilitates the balance between the productivity and the viability maintenance, and could be valuable for mass production of DE with minimal variation.

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