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Homing of annexin-labeled stem cells to apoptotic cells


Ischemic diseases are characterized by the presence of pro-apoptotic stimuli, which initiate a cascade of processes that lead to cell injury and death. Several molecules and events represent detectable indicators of the different stages of apoptosis. Among these indicators is phosphatidylserine (PS) translocation from the inner to the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane, which can be detected by annexinV (ANXA5) conjugation. This is a widely used in vivo and in vitro assay marking the early stages of apoptosis. We report here on an original method that employs PS-ANXA5 conjugation to target stem cells to apoptotic cells. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from GFP-positive transgenic rats were biotinylated on membrane surfaces with sulfosuccinimidyl-6-(biotinamido) hexanoate (sulfo-NHS-LC-biot) and then bound to avidin. The avidin-biotinylated MSCs were labeled with biotin conjugated ANXA5. Bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAE-1 cells) were exposed to UVC to induce caspasedependent apoptosis. Finally, we tested the ability of ANXA5-labeled MSCs to bind BAE-1 apoptotic cells: suspended ANXA5-labeled MSCs were seeded for 1 hour on a monolayer of UV-treated or control BAE-1 cells. After washing, the number of MSCs bound to BAE-1 cells was evaluated by confocal microscopy. Statistical analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the number of MSCs tagged to apoptotic BAE-1 cells. Therefore, stem cell ANXA5 tagging via biotin-avidin bridges could be a straightforward method of improving homing to apoptotic tissues.




BAE-1 cells:

bovine aortic endothelial cells


Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium


fetal calf serum


sulforhodaminyl-L-aspartylglutamylvalylaspartylfluoromethyl ketone


green fluorescent protein


minimum essential Eagle’s medium, alpha modified


mesenchymal stem cells


phosphate buffer saline




sulfosuccinimidyl-6-(biotinamido) hexanoate


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Correspondence to Maria Pia Gallo.

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A. Gerasimou, R. Ramella and A. Brero contributed equally to this paper.

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Gerasimou, A., Ramella, R., Brero, A. et al. Homing of annexin-labeled stem cells to apoptotic cells. Cell Mol Biol Lett 14, 100–112 (2009).

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Key words

  • Stem cell
  • Apoptosis
  • Homing
  • Annexin