Evidence suggests that the human endometrium contains stem or progenitor cells that are responsible for its remarkable regenerative capability. A common property of somatic stem cells is their quiescent state. It remains unclear whether slow-cycling cells exist in the human endometrium. We hypothesized that the human endometrium contains a subset of slow-cycling cells with somatic stem cell properties. Here, we established an in vitro stem cell assay to isolate human endometrial-derived mesenchymal stem-like cells (eMSC).
Single-cell stromal cultures were initially labeled with fluorescent nanoparticles and a small population of fluorescent persistent cells (FPC) remained after culture of 21 days. Two populations of stromal cells, namely FPC and non-FPC were sorted.
Quantitative analysis of functional assays demonstrated that the FPC had higher colony forming ability, underwent more rounds of self-renewal and had greater enrichment of phenotypically defined prospective eMSC markers; CD146+/CD140b+ and W5C5+ than the non-FPC. They also differentiate into multiple mesenchymal lineages and the expression of lineage specific markers were lower than that of non-FPC. The FPC exhibit low proliferation activities. A proliferation dynamics study revealed that more FPC had a prolonged G1 phase.
With this study we present an efficient method to label and isolate slow-proliferating cells obtained from human endometrial stromal cultures without genetic modifications. The FPC population could be easily maintained in vitro and are of interest for tissue-repair and engineering perspectives. In summary, nanoparticle labeling is a promising tool for the identification of putative somatic stem or progenitor cells when their surface markers are undefined.