Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

Single-cell analysis reveals a nestin+ tendon stem/progenitor cell population with strong tenogenic potentiality

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Science Advances  18 Nov 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 11, e1600874
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600874

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Abstract

The repair of injured tendons remains a formidable clinical challenge because of our limited understanding of tendon stem cells and the regulation of tenogenesis. With single-cell analysis to characterize the gene expression profiles of individual cells isolated from tendon tissue, a subpopulation of nestin+ tendon stem/progenitor cells (TSPCs) was identified within the tendon cell population. Using Gene Expression Omnibus datasets and immunofluorescence assays, we found that nestin expression was activated at specific stages of tendon development. Moreover, isolated nestin+ TSPCs exhibited superior tenogenic capacity compared to nestin TSPCs. Knockdown of nestin expression in TSPCs suppressed their clonogenic capacity and reduced their tenogenic potential significantly both in vitro and in vivo. Hence, these findings provide new insights into the identification of subpopulations of TSPCs and illustrate the crucial roles of nestin in TSPC fate decisions and phenotype maintenance, which may assist in future therapeutic strategies to treat tendon disease.

Keywords
  • Tendons stem/progenitor cells
  • tenogenesis
  • nestin
  • single-cell gene analysis

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