Stem Cell Res Ther PMID:25889377 (2015)

Rho kinase inhibitor Y-27632 promotes the differentiation of human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells into keratinocyte-like cells in xeno-free conditioned medium

Li Z1, Han S2, Wang X3, Han F4, Zhu X5, Zheng Z6, Wang H7, Zhou Q8, Wang Y9, Su L10, Shi J11, Tang C12, Hu D13



Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs), which have the ability to self-renew and to differentiate into multiple cell types, have recently become a novel strategy for cell-based therapies. The differentiation of BMSCs into keratinocytes may be beneficial for patients with burns, disease, or trauma. However, the currently available cells are exposed to animal materials during their cultivation and induction. These xeno-contaminations severely limit their clinical outcomes. Previous studies have shown that the Rho kinase (ROCK) inhibitor Y-27632 can promote induction efficiency and regulate the self-renewal and differentiation of stem cells. In the present study, we attempted to establish a xeno-free system for the differentiation of BMSCs into keratinocytes and to investigate whether Y-27632 can facilitate this differentiation.


BMSCs isolated from patients were cultured by using a xeno-free system and characterised by using flow cytometric analysis and adipogenic and osteogenic differentiation assays. Human primary keratinocytes were also isolated from patients. Then, the morphology, population doubling time, and β-galactosidase staining level of these cells were evaluated in the presence or absence of Y-27632 to determine the effects of Y-27632 on the state of the keratinocytes. Keratinocyte-like cells (KLCs) were detected at different time points by immunocytofluorescence analysis. Moreover, the efficiency of BMSC differentiation under different conditions was measured by quantitative real-time-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Western blot analyses.


The ROCK inhibitor Y-27632 promoted the proliferation and lifespan of human primary keratinocytes. In addition, we showed that keratinocyte-specific markers could be detected in BMSCs cultured in a xeno-free system using keratinocyte-conditioned medium (KCM) independent of the presence of Y-27632. However, the efficiency of the differentiation of BMSCs into KLCs was significantly higher in the presence of Y-27632 using immunofluorescence, quantitative RT-PCR, and Western blot analyses.


This study demonstrated that Y-27632 could promote the proliferation and survival of human primary keratinocytes in a xeno-free culture system. In addition, we found that BMSCs have the ability to differentiate into KLCs in KCM and that Y-27632 can facilitate this differentiation. Our results suggest that BMSCs are capable of differentiating into KLCs in vitro and that the ROCK pathway may play a critical role in this process.

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