Mesenchymal stem cell spheroids retain osteogenic phenotype through α2β1 signaling

Kaitlin C. Murphy, Allison I. Hoch, Jenna N. Harvestine, Dejie Zhou, Jonathan K Leach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The induction of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) toward the osteoblastic lineage using osteogenic supplements prior to implantation is one approach under examination to enhance their bone-forming potential. MSCs rapidly lose their induced phenotype upon removal of the soluble stimuli; however, their bone-forming potential can be sustained when provided with continued instruction via extracellular matrix (ECM) cues. In comparison with dissociated cells, MSC spheroids exhibit improved survival and secretion of trophic factors while maintaining their osteogenic potential. We hypothesized that entrapment of MSC spheroids formed from osteogenically induced cells would exhibit better preservation of their bone-forming potential than would dissociated cells from monolayer culture. Spheroids exhibited comparable osteogenic potential and increased proangiogenic potential with or without osteogenic preconditioning versus monolayer-cultured MSCs. Spheroids were then entrapped in collagen hydrogels, and the osteogenic stimulus was removed. In comparison with entrapped dissociated MSCs, spheroids exhibited significantly increased markers of osteogenic differentiation. The capacity of MSC spheroids to retain their osteogenic phenotype upon withdrawal of inductive cues was mediated by α2β1 integrin binding to cell-secreted ECM. These results demonstrate the capacity of spheroidal culture to sustain the mineral-producing phenotype of MSCs, thus enhancing their contribution toward bone formation and repair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1229-1237
Number of pages9
JournalStem cells translational medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2016


  • Bone
  • Collagen
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Osteogenesis
  • Spheroid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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