Cytotoxicity of radiocontrast dyes in human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells

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Radiocontrast dyes are used for a wide range of diagnostic procedures for enhancing the image of anatomical structures, pain targets, and vascular uptake. While some of these dyes show toxicity to primary cells, their effect on stem cells, particularly mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), is unknown. This study investigates the cytotoxic effects of two clinically used radiocontrast dyes, iohexol and iopamidol, on bone marrow and human umbilical cord MSCs. Exposure to these dyes significantly affected morphology of MSCs from both sources, as treated cells appeared transparent and no longer fibroblastoid. Cell viability decreased as determined by trypan blue and Annexin-V/PI staining, in a dose dependent manner with simultaneous loss of CD90 and CD105 concurrent with spontaneous differentiation in MSCs treated with iohexol and iopamidol. In addition, significantly higher cell death was observed in MSCs exposed to iopamidol than iohexol. At a concentration of 1:1, iohexol and iopamidol induced apoptosis in 19% and 92% (<.01) of MSCs, respectively. Global transcriptome analysis of treated MSCs revealed 139 and 384 differentially expressed genes in iohexol vs control and iopamidol vs control at p≤.01 and 1.5-fold, respectively. This suggested that iopamidol had more significant effect on the transcription of MSCs. Based on these results a molecular mechanism of radiocontast dye induced cell death via intrinsic apoptosis pathway mediated by p53 was proposed. Since iopamidol was significantly more toxic than iohexol in human MSCs, a more careful examination of safety of radiocontrast dyes for clinical use is warranted.HIGHLIGHTSIohexol and iopamidol inhibited growth and viability of mesenchymal stem cells.Iopamidol proved to be more apoptotic than iohexol in mesenchymal stem cells.Global gene expression was significantly more affected by iopamidol than iohexol.Both dyes induced p53 mediated intrinsic apoptosis in mesenchymal stem cells.

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