A small molecule modulating monounsaturated fatty acids and Wnt signaling confers maintenance to induced pluripotent stem cells against endodermal differentiation

Vahid Hosseini, Ashkan Kalantary-Charvadeh, Maryam Hajikarami, Parisa Fayyazpour, Reza Rahbarghazi, Mehdi Totonchi, Masoud Darabi*

*Corresponding author for this work
8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Stearoyl-coenzyme A desaturase 1 (SCD1) is required for de novo synthesis of fatty acids. Through the fatty acid acylation process, this enzyme orchestrates post-translational modifications to proteins involved in cell development and differentiation. In this study, we used biochemical methods, immunostaining, and covalent labeling to evaluate whether a small molecule modulating unsaturated fatty acids can influence the early endodermal differentiation of human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Methods: The hiPSCs were cultured in an endoderm-inducing medium containing activin A and defined fetal bovine serum in the presence of an SCD1 inhibitor at different time points. The cell cycles and the yields of the three germ layers (endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm) were assessed using flow cytometry. The expression of endoderm and pluripotency markers and the expressions of Wnt signaling pathway proteins were assessed using western blotting and RT-PCR. Total protein acylation was evaluated using a click chemistry reaction. Results: When SCD1 was inhibited on the first day, the population of cells with endodermal features decreased at the end of differentiation. Moreover, early SCD1 inhibition preserved the properties of hiPSCs, preventing their shift toward mesodermal or ectodermal lineage. Also, first-day-only treatment of cells with the SCD1 inhibitor decreased β-catenin gene expression and the intensity of fluorescent emission in the click chemistry assay. The cells were effectively rescued from these effects by cotreatment with oleate. Late treatment with the inhibitor in the two subsequent days of endoderm induction did not have any significant effects on endoderm-specific markers or fluorescent intensity. Reproducible results were also obtained with human embryonic stem cells. Conclusion: The small molecule SCD1 inhibitor attenuates the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, conferring the maintenance of hiPSCs by opposing the initiation of endoderm differentiation. The immediate requirement for SCD1 activity in the endoderm commitment of pluripotent stem cells may be of importance in disorders of endoderm-derived organs and dysregulated metabolism. The schematic representation of the study design and main results. Activin A induces endoderm features through Smad2/3/4 and increases the expression of SCD1. SCD1 can produce MUFAs and subsequently modify the Wnt molecules. MUFA acylated/activated Wnts are secreted to interact with corresponding receptors on the target cells. β-catenin accumulates in the cytoplasm and is translocated into the nucleus after the interaction of Wnt with the receptor. Then, β-catenin increases the expression of the endoderm markers Sox17 and CXCR4.[Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number550
JournalStem Cell Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12.2021

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