Human Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Unveil an Unexpected Differentiation Potential toward the Dopaminergic Neuronal Lineage

G. Gaggi, A. Di Credico, P. Izzicupo, F. Alviano, M. Di Mauro, A. Di Baldassarre*, B. Ghinassi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Degeneration of dopaminergic neurons represents the cause of many neurodegenerative diseases, with increasing incidence worldwide. The replacement of dead cells with new healthy ones may represent an appealing therapeutic approach to these pathologies, but currently, only pluripotent stem cells can generate dopaminergic neurons with high efficiency. However, with the use of these cells arises safety and/or ethical issues. Human mesenchymal stromal cells (hFM-MSCs) are perinatal stem cells that can be easily isolated from the amniochorionic membrane after delivery. Generally considered multipotent, their real differentiative potential is not completely elucidated. The aim of this study was to analyze their stemness characteristics and to evaluate whether they may overcome their mesenchymal fate, generating dopaminergic neurons. We demonstrated that hFM-MSCs expressed embryonal genes OCT4, NANOG, SOX2, KLF4, OVOL1, and ESG1, suggesting they have some features of pluripotency. Moreover, hFM-MSCs that underwent a dopaminergic differentiation protocol gradually increased the transcription of dopaminergic markers LMX1b, NURR1, PITX3, and DAT. We finally obtained a homogeneous population of cells resembling the morphology of primary midbrain dopaminergic neurons that expressed the functional dopaminergic markers TH, DAT, and Nurr1. In conclusion, our results suggested that hFM-MSCs retain the expression of pluripotency genes and are able to differentiate not only into mesodermal cells, but also into neuroectodermal dopaminergic neuron-like cells.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6589
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • dat
  • dopaminergic neurons
  • expression
  • fate
  • generation
  • hfm-mscs
  • human mesenchymal stromal cells
  • in-vitro
  • localization
  • mesenchymal fate
  • metabolism
  • nurr1
  • parkinson's disease
  • perinatal stem cells
  • pitx3
  • pluripotency
  • stem-cells
  • th
  • transporter trafficking
  • tyrosine-hydroxylase
  • Parkinson's disease
  • FATE
  • PITX3
  • hFM-MSCs
  • TH
  • DAT
  • NURR1

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