Reprogramming peripheral blood mononuclear cells using an efficient feeder-free, non-integration method to generate iPS cells and the effect of immunophenotype and epigenetic state on HSPC fate
Background and objectives In 2006 Shinya Yamanaka successfully reprogrammed mouse fibroblasts back to an embryonic stem cell-like state (called induced pluripotent cells, iPS cells) using retrovirus to introduce four genes that encode critical transcription factor proteins (Oct4, Sox2, KLF4, and c-Myc). This ability to reprogram has promising future applications in clinical and biomedical research for study of diseases, development of candidate drugs and to support therapeutic treatments in regenerative medicine. However, the clinical applications have to meet GMP requirements without the risk of insertional mutagenesis associated with retrovirus. Chromatin modifying agents are widely used in many protocols to generate iPS cells and culture of blood CD34+ cells with chromatin-modifying agents can lead to an increase in marrow repopulating cells and in the case of valproic acid increased erythroid cell colony formation. We undertook research to help understand what effects these reagents have on mobilised peripheral blood (mPB) CD34+ cells and optimised the expansion medium protocol to facilitate reprogramming work. This project aims to utilize peripheral blood mononuclear cells (MNC), one of the most easily accessible tissues to generate iPS cells using an efficient non-viral, feeder cell free methodology, with the ultimate goal of moving this methodology towards clinical use. Materials and Methods G-CSF mobilised peripheral blood, buffy coat, cord blood and fetal liver were obtained from patients and donors under informed consent and ethics committee approval. Haematopoietic stem/progenitor cells CD34+ or CD133+) isolated by magnetic separation were flow cytometry sorted into CD34+/CD133+, CD34+/CD133-, and CD34-/CD133+ sub-populations and their lineage potential were assessed in colony forming unit assays. The effect of epigenetic modifiers valproic acid and 5-aza-2-deoxycytidine used singly or in combination with each other and with IL3 on phenotype and lineage potential of cultured CD34+ cells from mobilised peripheral blood were assessed by flow cytometry and colony-forming unit assays. Prior to reprogramming mononuclear cells from peripheral blood or CD34+ cells from blood were expanded in culture medium supplemented with stem cell factor (SCF), Fms-related tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Flt3L) and Interleukin- 3 (IL-3) for several days. Actively proliferating cells were reprogrammed by electroporation using episomal vectors with an oriP/EBNA-1 backbone to deliver five reprogramming genes, Oct4, Sox2, Lin28, L-Myc, and Klf4. Electroporated cells were seeded onto matrigel coated plates immediately after transfection or were reseeded after three days’ culture. Subsequently, cells were cultured in specific medium on different days. When iPS colonies appeared, they were picked and cultured as for ES cells. Once established, iPS cell lines were immunophenotyped using flow cytometry and immunofluorescence and their potential to differentiate into the three germ layers was assessed in vitro. Results and Conclusion The largest subpopulation of CD34+ cells was CD34+/CD133+ population which was essentially committed to myeloid colony production, while much smaller CD34+/CD133- subpopulation had a greater capacity to generate erythroid colonies. Optimised cytokine cocktail for expansion of CD34+ cells included IL-3, important in improving expansion and maintaining functionality of CD34+ cells. The optimised cytokine cocktail comprised 100 ng/ml SCF, 10 ng/ml Flt3L, and 20 ng/ml IL-3, which maintained CD34+ cells and MNC in an active proliferating state. In addition, valproic acid and IL3 were found to act synergistically, to increase the numbers of CD34+/CD36+ positive cells. However, we found that an apparent increase in red cell colony formation actually resulted from a decrease in white cell colonies, so no overall increase in red cell colonies was seen when equivalent numbers of CD34+ cells were plated. Proliferating MNC maintained in optimised cytokine cocktail were amenable to electroporation for the effective delivery of episomal transcription factors (Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, L-Myc, and Lin28) within a backbone of oriP/EBNA-1. We successfully developed an efficient and simple method for reprogramming MNC from fresh or frozen samples to generate induced pluripotent cells using episomal vectors in a feeder-free system without any requirement for small molecules and the highest reprogramming efficiency is 0.033% (65 colonies from 2 ◊ 105 seeding MNC). The cytokine cocktail and reprogramming methods work better in CD34+ cells from cord blood or fetal liver, and we obtained 148 iPS colonies from 105 seeding cells (0.148%) at most. In addition, fibroblasts from adult and fetal liver can be successfully reprogrammed using the same reprogramming method. The use of episomal vectors with an oriP/EBNA-1 backbone to deliver reprogramming genes, and efficient electroporation were the most important factors in efficiency of the reprogramming process. In addition, it is pivotal to initiate transfection when cells are actively proliferating. The iPS cell lines we generated maintained the successful expression of ES markers including Oct4, Nanog, SSEA3. SSEA4, TRA-1-60 and TRA-1-81, and had the capacity to successfully differentiate into cell types of ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm layers in vitro.