Differentiation of mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells via embryoid bodies (EB) is established as a suitable model to study cellular processes of development in vitro. ES cells are known to be pluripotent because of their capability to differentiate into cell types of all three germ layers including germ cells. Here, we show that ES cells differentiate into renal cell types in vitro. We found that genes were expressed during EB cultivation, which have been previously described to be involved in renal development. Marker molecules characteristic for terminally differentiated renal cell types were found to be expressed predominantly during late stages of EB cultivation, while marker molecules involved in the initiation of nephrogenesis were already expressed during early steps of EB development. On the cellular level - using immunostaining - we detected cells expressing podocin, nephrin and wt-1, characteristic for differentiated podocytes and other cells, which expressed Tamm-Horsfall protein, a marker for distal tubule epithelial cells of kidney tissue. Furthermore, the proximal tubule marker molecules renal-specific oxido reductase, kidney androgen-related protein and 25-hydroxyvitamin D 3α-hydroxylase were found to be expressed in EBs. In particular, we could demonstrate that cells expressing podocyte marker molecules assemble to distinct ring-like structures within the EBs. Because the differentiation efficiency into these cell types is still relatively low, application of fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-2 in combination with leukaemia inhibitory factor was tested for induction, but did not enhance ES cell-derived renal differentiation in vitro.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)