Proteome profiling of mouse embryonic stem cells to define markers for cell differentiation and embryotoxicity

Ahmed M. Osman*, Dorien A. M. van Dartel, Edwin P. Zwart, Marco Blokland, Jeroen L. A. Pennings, Aldert H. Piersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In search for alternative methods for developmental toxicity testing, we investigated whether embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation and its modulation by toxic exposure could be monitored by proteome profiling. We compared the proteomes of mouse ESC, differentiating ESC (DIF) and differentiating ESC exposed to the embryotoxicant monobutyl phthalate (MBP). Experiments were performed in duplicates for each cell culture and the proteins extracted from the cells were separated by one-dimensional SDS-PAGE. The identified proteins were quantified using a label-free quantitative method based on counting the observed peptides as an index of protein abundance. Fifty-seven proteins were upregulated in DIF relative to ESC, whereas 42 proteins were downregulated. Most of the unregulated proteins could be correlated with cardiomyocyte functionality. In contrast, the downregulated proteins were principally pluripotency markers, chaperones and ribosomal proteins. Higher expression levels of enzymes involved in DNA mismatch repair (MSH6) and in methylation reactions (MAT2A, AHCY) were also detected in the ESC, suggesting that these processes are more active in the ESC. In addition, the detection of gluthatione S-transferase alpha 4 (GSTA4) and Park7 DJ-1 protein (antioxidant) in ESC indicates that these cells have potential detoxification mechanisms. Furthermore, MBP affected the expression of 33 proteins, including MYH6, a cardiomyocyte-specific protein, which was significantly downregulated. MBP also affected the expression levels of chaperones, metabolic enzymes and chromatin modulating proteins, suggesting that MBP alters the differentiation process. Western blot analysis of MYH6 and HSPB1 confirmed the proteomic data. In addition, a favorable correlation was observed between protein expression and published changes in the expression of related genes at the transcriptomics level. Together, the results reveal potential protein markers that may be used as endpoints in an ESC based animal free alternative test for embryotoxicity though further studies are required for confirmation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-332
JournalReproductive Toxicology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Differentiation
  • Cardiomyocyte
  • Proteomics
  • Monobutyl phthalate
  • Toxicity


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