Stem Cell Research


Expression of miR-145-5p During Chondrogenesis of Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Emily A. Verbus, Jonathan D. Kenyon, Olga Sergeeva, Amad Awadallah, Lewis Yuan, Jean F. Welter, Arnold I. Caplan, Mark D. Schluchter, Ahmad M. Khalil, Zhenghong Lee*.

Assessing the quality of tissue engineered (TE) cartilage has historically been performed by endpoint measurements including marker gene expression. Until the adoption of promoter-driven reporter constructs capable of quantitative and real time non-destructive expression analysis, temporal gene expression assessments along a timeline could not be performed on TE constructs. We further exploit this technique to utilize microRNA (miRNA or miR) through the use of firefly luciferase reporter (Luc) containing a 3’ UTR perfect complementary target sequence to the mature miR-145-5p. We report the development and testing of a firefly luciferase (Luc) reporter responsive to miR-145-5p for longitudinal tracking of miR-145-5p expression throughout MSC chondrogenic differentiation.

Plasmid reporter vectors containing a miR-145-5p responsive reporter (Luc reporter with a perfect complementary target sequence to the mature miR-145-5p sequence in the 3’UTR), a Luc reporter driven by a truncated Sox9 (one of the targets of miR-145-5p) promoter, or the Luc backbone (control) vector without a specific miRNA target were transfected into MSCs by electroporation. Transfected MSCs were mixed with untransfected MSC to generate chondrogenic pellets. Pellets were imaged by bioluminescent imaging (BLI) and harvested along a preset time line.

The imaging signals from miR-145-5p responsive reporter and Sox9 promoter-driven reporter showed correlated time-courses (measured by BLI and normalized to Luc-control reporter; Spearman r=0.93, p=0.0002) during MSC chondrogenic differentiation. Expression analysis by qRT-PCR suggests an inverse relationship between miR-145-5p and Sox9 gene expression during MSC chondrogenic differentiation.

Non-destructive cell-pellet imaging is capable of supplementing histological analyses to characterize TE cartilage. The miR-145-5p responsive reporter is relatively simple to construct and generates a consistent imaging signal responsive to miR-145-5p during MSC chondrogenesis in parallel to certain molecular and cellular events.