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Yu-Ting Xiao, Jing-Yu Qu, Hua-Tao Xie, Ming-Chang Zhang, Xin-Yue Zhao; A Comparison of Methods for Isolation of Limbal Niche Cells: Maintenance of Limbal Epithelial Stem/Progenitor Cells. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2020;61(14):16. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.61.14.16.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Limbal niche cells (LNCs) play a vital role in the maintenance of limbal epithelial stem/progenitor cells (LESCs). Four methods have been reported to isolate and expand LNCs: digestion by collagenase alone (C-LNC), collagenase following dispase removal of the limbal epithelium (DC-LNC), dissection of dispase-isolated limbal epithelial sheets (D-LNC), and explant cultures of limbal stromal tissues (Ex-LNC). This study aimed to isolate LNCs using those four methods and to compare their capacity to maintain LESCs.
LNCs were isolated from the rat corneal limbus by the following methods: C-LNC, DC-LNC, D-LNC, and Ex-LNC. Quantitative real-time PCR and immunofluorescence staining were used to analyze the expression of embryonic stem cell (ESC) markers. The ability to maintain LESCs was assessed on the basis of colony-forming capacity and the expression of progenitor, proliferation, and differentiation markers in three-dimensional (3D) Matrigel and Transwell systems. Notch signaling of LESCs supported by different LNCs in Transwell inserts was analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR.
DC-LNCs exhibited lower expression of CK12 during isolation and expansion. Among P4-expanded LNCs, DC-LNCs expressed significantly higher levels of Sox2, Oct4, Nanog, and N-cadherin than C-LNCs, D-LNCs, and Ex-LNCs. Compared with other LNCs, DC-LNCs were more effective in maintaining LESCs with higher holoclone-forming efficiency, greater expression of ΔNp63α and Ki67, and lower expression of CK12. DC-LNCs were also more capable of downregulating Notch signaling of LESCs.
DC-LNCs were more effective in expressing ESC markers and maintaining LESCs compared to other LNCs. This study identifies an optimal method for the isolation of LNCs in tissue engineering and ocular surface reconstruction.
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