Epithelial-mesenchymal transition delayed by E-cad to promote tissue formation in hepatic differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells in vitro

Anbin Hu, Changzhen Shang, Qiang Li, Nianfeng Sun, Linwei Wu, Yi Ma, Xingyuan Jiao, Jun Min, Gucheng Zeng, Xiaoshun He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Hepatic differentiation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) usually results in a single cell lineage, and the formation of liver tissues remains difficult. Here, we examine the role of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) that is regulated by epithelial cadherin (E-cad) expression in hepatic tissue formation from ESCs. E-cad was transfected into mouse ESCs to enable a stable expression of E-cad. Hepatic differentiation of ESCs was then induced by hepatic growth factors. Wnt/β-catenin signaling and EMT speed were examined to determine the differentiation process. Hepatic and angiogenesis markers, as well as differentiated cell-adhesive force were also examined to identify the hepatic tissue differentiation. In our results, E-cad expression gradually decreased in normal ESC (N-ESC) differentiation, but remained stable in the E-cad transfected ESC (EC-ESC) group. In EC-ESC differentiation, expressions of cytoplastic β-catenin and EMT were much lower and significantly prolonged. Angiogenesis markers vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (VEGFR-1) and CD31/PECAM-1 were expressed only on day 5-13 in N-ESC differentiation, whereas VEGFR-1 and CD31/PECAM-1 were expressed prolonged on day 5-17 in the EC-ESC group and were coincident with the expression of hepatic markers. Finally, EC-ESC differentiation maintained multilayer-growth patterns, and abundant vascular network structures appeared and migrated in albumin-positive cell areas. The cellular adhesion forces between embryonic body cells in EC-ESC differentiation during day 13-17 were similar to those of mouse liver tissue. In conclusion, accelerated EMT due to the decreased E-cad expression may partially contribute to the failure of hepatic tissue formation in N-ESC differentiation. E-cad can act in synergy with hepatic growth factors and facilitate the early-stage formation of hepatic tissues through down-regulating Wnt/β-catenin signaling and delaying EMT. This work provides a new insight into hepatic tissue differentiation that is mediated by E-cad from ESC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-887
Number of pages11
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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