BACKGROUND: Pluripotent stem cells are attractive progenitor cells for the generation of erythroid cells in vitro as have expansive proliferative potential. However, although embryonic (ESC) and induced pluripotent (iPSC) stem cells can be induced to undergo erythroid differentiation, the majority of cells fail to enucleate and the molecular basis of this defect is unknown. One protein that has been associated with the initial phase of erythroid cell enucleation is the intermediate filament vimentin, with loss of vimentin potentially required for the process to proceed.
METHODS: In this study, we used our established erythroid culture system along with western blot, PCR and interegation of comparative proteomic data sets to analyse the temporal expression profile of vimentin in erythroid cells differentiated from adult peripheral blood stem cells, iPSC and ESC throughout erythropoiesis. Confocal microscopy was also used to examine the intracellular localisation of vimentin.
RESULTS: We show that expression of vimentin is turned off early during normal adult erythroid cell differentiation, with vimentin protein lost by the polychromatic erythroblast stage, just prior to enucleation. In contrast, in erythroid cells differentiated from iPSC and ESC, expression of vimentin persists, with high levels of both mRNA and protein even in orthochromatic erythroblasts. In the vimentin-positive iPSC orthochromatic erythroblasts, F-actin was localized around the cell periphery; however, in those rare cells captured undergoing enucleation, vimentin was absent and F-actin was re-localized to the enucleosome as found in normal adult orthrochromatic erythroblasts.
CONCLUSION: As both embryonic and adult erythroid cells loose vimentin and enucleate, retention of vimentin by iPSC and ESC erythroid cells indicates an intrinsic defect. By analogy with avian erythrocytes which naturally retain vimentin and remain nucleated, retention in iPSC- and ESC-derived erythroid cells may impede enucleation. Our data also provide the first evidence that dysregulation of processes in these cells occurs from the early stages of differentiation, facilitating targeting of future studies.