Open Access

Human mesenchymal stem cells express neuronal markers after osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation

Cellular & Molecular Biology LettersAn International Journal201318:83

DOI: 10.2478/s11658-013-0083-2

Received: 7 May 2012

Accepted: 14 February 2013

Published: 21 February 2013


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent cells that are able to differentiate into mesodermal lineages (osteogenic, adipogenic, chondrogenic), but also towards non-mesodermal derivatives (e.g. neural cells). Recent in vitro studies revealed that, in the absence of any kind of differentiation stimuli, undifferentiated MSCs express neural differentiation markers, but the literature data do not all concur. Considering their promising therapeutic potential for neurodegenerative diseases, it is very important to expand our knowledge about this particular biological property of MSCs. In this study, we confirmed the spontaneous expression of neural markers (neuronal, glial and progenitor markers) by undifferentiated human MSCs (hMSCs) and in particular, we demonstrated that the neuronal markers βIII-tubulin and NeuN are expressed by a very high percentage of hMSCs, regardless of the number of culture passages and the culture conditions. Moreover, the neuronal markers βIII-tubulin and NeuN are still expressed by hMSCs after in vitro osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation. On the other hand, chondrogenically differentiated hMSCs are negative for these markers. Our findings suggest that the expression of neuronal markers could be common to a wide range of cellular types and not exclusive for neuronal lineages. Therefore, the expression of neuronal markers alone is not sufficient to demonstrate the differentiation of MSCs towards the neuronal phenotype. Functional properties analysis is also required.